Consumer Watch: Cellphone account fraud on the rise

Cellphone account fraud is growing across the US, and there are not many consumer protections in place. (KOKH/PNG)

Cellphone account fraud is a growing crime that could be a major hit to your finances. According to an investigation by Consumer Reports, the number of cell phone fraud victims hit 340,000 in 2017, and there are few protections in place for consumers.

“Unfortunately, the cellphone industry has not caught up to the credit card industry when it comes to fraud, and there are not well define consumer protections for you as a customer, “says Andrew Schrage with Money Crashers, a personal finance site.

Cellphones connect us to everything. Some of our most sensitive financial information in linked to our mobile devices, and fraudsters are getting wise on that.

“They can use your phone number to gain access to numerous secure accounts of yours. including your bank and credit card accounts. they can then transfer these funds out of your bank account, charge items to your credit card and even sign up for additional credit cards, “says Schrage.

The reason the number is so valuable is that scammers can click the "forgot my password” link, and then get a temporary key sent to the number to get into your accounts.

Consumer Report conducted investigation into the issue. It too found that most cellphone providers don’t conduct extensive check the way credit card issuers and banks do. Thousands of Americans are also not finding out anything is wrong until they get denied for credit or get a call from law enforcement agents who are investigating.

“By the time you find out about the fraud you may find yourself with 10s of thousands of dollars’ worth of bills that don’t belong to you,” says Schrage.

Major red flags to watch for include: cell phone service cut off, even when you've been paying the bill and getting denied for credit when you think your score is good.

Money Crashers recommends protecting yourself by checking your bank account for strange charges and checking your credit regularly for new inquiries in your name. You can go to to get a free look at your credit report from all three credit bureaus once every 12 months.

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