SCAM alert and how to protect yourself

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Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley is warning consumers about a recent rise in cell phone scams involving the swapping of SIM cards and theft of funds through cash apps.

“One of the best ways to protect yourself against these types of scams is to make sure you have a password and a pin code that only you know associated with your cell phone account,” Commissioner Brandon Presley said. “So if one of these criminals goes in and tries to swap out the sim card, which is swapping out your phone number, you will get that alert or it’ll stop them from doing it.”

The scam activity begins when a criminal contacts a consumer’s cellular provider posing as the account holder. After doing so, they convince the carrier to deactivate the consumer’s current SIM card and activate a new SIM card. The criminal then activates the new SIM card to block the actual consumer from accessing their own accounts. By doing so, scam artists are then able to access a consumer’s cash apps like Venmo and PayPal to steal money.

“What we are seeing happening in these cases is the criminal will go in and swap the sim card out, swap out the number. The original account holder has no idea that that’s happened because they don’t have an alert,” Presley said. “Therefore, the criminal is able to take money, send it through Venmo, PayPal, and actually steal.”

Commissioner Presley is advising for all consumers to make sure there is a PIN code or password on their account with their phone carrier, this will add an extra level of security.

“We are suggesting everyone contact their phone carrier, set up a unique password for that account, for that particular phone number so that any amendments or any changes are made to that phone account, the person doing that must give that password or PIN code.  It’s just double protection,” Presley said.

Commissioner Presley also suggests consumers take a minute to review passwords and consider ways to increase security on accounts, including multifactor authentication. Multifactor authentication allows a phone’s user to set up certain apps to require two positive confirmations of the user. An example is a PIN number and a password, or a password and a text message confirmation.

“This is one of the latest ways criminals are trying to prey on hard-working Mississippians,” said Commissioner Presley. “Always be careful with your personal information. Don’t reply to calls, emails, or texts that are asking for your personal details and be careful what you share online.”

If you suspect that you have been the victim of this scam, please contact Commissioner Presley’s office at 1-800-637-7722 to speak with a fraud investigator or contact local law enforcement.

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