How cell phone can make you vulnerable to identity theft

Business woman looking at cell phone

Published: 5 July 2023

Reading time: 3 minutes

Your cell phone holds some of your most sensitive personal and business information—passwords, account numbers, contacts, emails, texts, photos, social media posts, and more. 

If your phone ends up in the wrong hands, you’re a prime candidate for phone identity theft and fraud.

If that happens, hackers could be selling your sensitive key information on the dark web: your Social Security number, date of birth, driver’s license number, address, place, and length of employment, salary, names of family members, and various other details.

Hackers use your personal history to open all kinds of accounts in your name, including cell-phone accounts. Unlike bank or credit card accounts, cell phone accounts are relatively easy to open because carriers don’t always perform thorough background checks. Also, it’s not unusual for customers to have more than one account in their name already.

Criminals can take your current cell phone number and then transfer it to a fake account in a practice known as porting. It allows identity thieves to use your phone number to access sensitive information, including bank, retirement, and cryptocurrency accounts. You probably won’t know it is happening because the verification code that financial institutions send to the number on the account doesn’t come to you. It goes to the thief’s device.

With a fraudulent cell phone account in your name, criminals can tap into you your bank accounts, request credit cards, or sell the number to other criminals. You may not know this has happened until the fake accounts go into default, your authorized services are disconnected, or you see negative changes in your account.

How to prevent identity theft

LOCK YOUR PHONE. Set your phone to lock when you’re not using it. Create a PIN or passcode to unlock it. Use at least a six-digit passcode. You also may be able to unlock your phone with your fingerprint, your retina, or your face.

BACK UP YOUR DATA. On a regular basis, back up the data on your phone. If you lose your phone, you’ll still have access to your personal information.

GET HELP FINDING YOUR LOST PHONE. Mobile operating systems have programs that help you find your phone if you lose it. They also let you lock or erase all the data on your phone in case you think someone stole it.

MFA is an authentication mechanism that requires more than one distinct authentication factor for successful authentication. The 3 most common factors are knowledge (something you know), possession (something you have), and inherence (something you are).

Multi-factor authentication can be performed using a multi-factor authenticator or by a combination of authenticators that provide different factors.

It is an authentication method that requires a user to provide at least two factors of verification in order to be granted access to a website, application, or resource.

How Does Adaptive Multi-Factor Authentication Work?

When a user attempts to log in to a resource, they are required to authenticate with a primary authenticator, which can be a single-factor or multi-factor authenticator.

Entrust IAM evaluates contextual information such as geolocation, behavioral biometrics, velocity, etc., to determine if a second factor or step-up authentication is required. If the risk level based on the user request, contextual information, and resource being accessed is low then the user is authenticated and granted access.

If the risk level is high, then the user can either be denied or required to use a second authenticator to verify their identity before access can be granted.

Read more about MFA from Entrust!

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