Hackers clone Cape Coral woman’s phone through ‘porting’

Colleen Lorae was already having a rough few days when she became a victim of phone-porting thieves.

Lorae was sitting in a waiting room at a veterans affairs clinic for several hours Monday when she received an “error” message that claimed she had no service provider.

“I reset my phone like seven times thinking it was just a glitch, so I kept restarting it,” Lorae said.

Lorae’s service provider told her she was a victim of phone porting, meaning a hacker essentially cloned her phone.

“So, the phone never left my possession, but he made a complete clone so he has all the information that in my phone. He has all my apps, he can go into my Facebook, my messages,” Lorae said.

The director of Identity Fraud Institute at Hodges University, Carrie Kerskie, says this issue is not that uncommon.

“[The hacker] basically pretends to be you, tells the phone company, ‘I have a new cell phone, transfer the service over to my new phone.’ So, your cell phone now becomes a brick and all of your calls, your text message, your emails, are going to that new phone that the bad guy has,” Kerskie said.

By the time Lorae got home, she realized her bank account had been frozen and the hacker got away with $1,000.

Lorae said the scariest part was when her husband received a text message from the hacker asking for more passwords.

“I even tried asking misleading questions, thinking he’d be smart enough to catch on,” Lorae said.

According to experts, the hack is nearly untraceable. But there is one way for people to protect themselves.

“Public WiFi really should be avoided,” Kerskie said. “It’s becoming more and more malicious, more difficult to determine if you’re on a legitimate one or not.”

A spokesperson for the VA officer said they don’t have public WiFi, so it’s unclear where exactly the hacker got access to Lorae’s phone.

Cell phone users can reach out to their service provider and request “port validation,” which only gives the user permission to switch providers and not criminals.

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