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Published Wednesday 2 Jun 2021


From tomorrow (Thursday 3 June 2021), consumers who switch mobile providers and want to keep their phone number – a process called number porting – will receive a dedicated SMS text message to help prevent fraudsters.

 

The SMS will alert the consumer that their mobile provider has received a request to port their phone number. If they did not request this port, it may be fraudulent and the consumer can then take action to alert their mobile provider and bank.

The text message sent will be as follows: 

We’re processing a request to move your mobile number to another provider. If you DID NOT request this, please contact your mobile provider and bank IMMEDIATELY as an unauthorised mobile transfer may leave you vulnerable to serious fraud. Do not reply to this text.

Number porting fraud is relatively new and uncommon in New Zealand, but when it does happen it can have a devastating impact on the victim. 

A fraudster obtains personal information about the victim, such as their name, mobile number and account details, often gained from hacking into an individual's email account. The fraudster then requests to have the victim’s mobile number transferred to the fraudster's SIM card on a new provider. If successful in porting the victim’s number to their own SIM card, the fraudster will receive all the voice calls and text messages intended for the victim.

Typically, this occurs after a fraudster has managed to gain access to a customer's bank account – either by hacking or illegally obtaining the customer’s banking password.

Armed with this information, the fraudster can then take advantage of a security process called ‘two-factor authentication’ which is where a service, like online banking, uses SMS to send a unique code that the customer needs to provide when logging in or when confirming a banking transaction. This means the fraudster can request a funds transfer from the victim’s bank account and can use the SMS code to confirm the transfer.

The dedicated SMS is part of a series of measures the mobile phone industry is implementing to make it much tougher for fraudsters to exploit the number porting system.

A more advanced SMS solution is under development and is expected to be rolled out in October 2021. Once implemented, customers who have had a porting request on their account will receive an SMS from their current provider to which they will need to reply ‘YES’ in order for the number porting process to occur.

Mobile providers have also tightened up the requirements for customers to verify their identification when requesting a SIM swap – which is the process of moving a number to another SIM card that is with the same provider. Providers that have physical stores now require these customers to present their identification in-store.

NZ Telecommunications Forum Communications Director Andrew Pirie commented: “Number porting was put in place in 2007 to make it easy for consumers to retain their existing phone number when changing mobile providers. Consumers have benefitted greatly as it has made it easier for them to switch providers and get better deals. 

“However, as an industry we’ve become concerned recently about the potential for fraudsters to exploit the Number Porting process.  With these new security measures, we aim to add another layer of protection for our customers.”