Cell-phone account fraud is a rapidly growing threat to your privacy and financial well-being.

Criminals open up a phony cell-phone account in your name or transfer your phone number to a fake account. They then use it to access your bank account, sign up for credit cards or sell the phone number for other criminals to use.

This type of fraud is hard to detect. You may not find out about it until it impacts you financially. For example, money may be missing from your bank account or credit card companies may be calling about unpaid accounts. Even worse, the police may be investigating for crimes you didn't commit. In addition it can be harder to resolve than other types of fraud due to fewer consumer protections and a lack of a standard resolution process.

How to Protect Yourself

Protect yourself by putting a freeze on the credit information that is used to open a cell-phone account. The problem is that this information doesn't come from the big credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and Innovis but with another consumer reporting agency, the National Consumer Telecommunications and Utilities Exchange (NCTUE). NCTUE allows you to freeze your report online, by telephone, and by mail.

Consider putting a PIN on your account with your cell-phone provider. This will prevent criminals from using your account or transferring your phone number to a new account without your knowledge.

This article from Consumer Reports provides more details about the fraud and tips to protect yourself.