Forget hacking into your accounts. Scammers are now hijacking your phone

Forget hacking into your accounts. Scammers are now hijacking your phone
Published: Sep. 17, 2018 at 7:53 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 18, 2018 at 2:40 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hackers are hijacking people's cell phones by tricking mobile service providers into thinking they're you.

The goal is to get the company to transfer your telephone number onto their mobile device. Once it's switched, scammers can access your bank accounts, credit cards and even your social media.

It's called SIM hijacking and almost anyone with a cell phone could be a victim.

Ryan Ozawa's a familiar face on Hawaii News Now Sunrise known for his dance moves and technology expertise. But last month he fell victim to a growing scam after a stint in the hospital.

"It wasn't until much later that I realized my phone wasn't working and that I didn't have my Instagram account," said Ozawa.

The last text that came through on his phone before it died was a password reset notification.

Ozawa later found his handle, @hawaii, on a black market auction site being sold to the highest bidder.

Experts say while SIM hijacking has been around for awhile, targeting people's social media accounts is new.

"This person called the phone carrier, claimed they were Ryan and ported his number over to their cell phone number and they were able to access Ryan's information," said technology consultant Wayne Akiyama.

It took about a month and a lot of time on the telephone, but Ozawa eventually got his phone number back along with his handle.

"It's a very complex hack to undo," said Ozawa. "I was fortunate to be able to recover it. I had to start over. I lost eight years of photos."

In the grand scheme of things, he says he's lucky. Things could have turned out much worse.

"I was absolutely lucky. Instagram is fun. But it's not critical to life," said Ozawa. "They could have used that to get in my bank account."

There is a free app called "Authy" that you can download to protect your phone from this hack. You can also call your phone carrier and create a secondary PIN number. Tell the agent not to allow changes to your account without the PIN.

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