An Australian journalist has reported that her telephone number was hijacked by people intent on taking over her identity to draw funds out from her bank accounts.
Veteran ABC broadcast journalist Tracey Holmes revealed on Thursday night that someone unknown to her transferred her telephone number to another mobile provider. This is despite her calling Telstra three times to notify suspicious activities she had noticed on her account.
“They said, yes, your phone’s been transferred to another name, to another account, to another provider, in fact, so it was no longer with Telstra,” she said on a video posted on the ABC website.
“They said there was nothing they could do. They tried to phone the fraud department for me, but said ‘Sorry, they won’t be open until tomorrow morning’.”
With most modern online banking systems using verification codes sent to mobile phones for user access, Holmes then had “a sleepless night” wondering who had taken control of her mobile number and what the consequences would be.
“Thankfully I had frozen my bank accounts immediately and reported it to the police. Others have done the same but not been so lucky.”
According to New South Wales Police, about $5.8 million have been stolen through illegal “porting” of mobile numbers, whereby someone transfers an individual’s number to another telco.
“Many of the individuals we target here are involved in organised crime. That’s their primary focus, that is their job,” detective chief inspector Matt Craft told the ABC.
A free support organisation named IDCare, funded by the government and major telecommunications companies, can offer help to Australians that are worried about identity theft. The body also hosts academics that perform research in identity security.
Craft said that people should be wary of putting too much private information online, including archiving emails containing utility bills, which can be easily accessed if the email account was hacked.
Authorities recommended that if your number is ported, you should immediately freeze all bank accounts, report the incident to police in person, notify the telco and contact IDCare.