DETROIT – Help Me Hank has uncovered a new way hackers are stealing identities using victims' phone numbers. But there are ways to prevent it from happening.
Local 4 showed viewers how this type of identity theft can happen through phishing attempts, links that install malware on phones and popups.
If hackers get into a device, there are ways to prevent them from getting information.
A Metro Detroit woman named Laura said her phone was hacked a couple weeks ago. Hackers were able to port her number by calling her carrier, claiming the phone was stolen.
"My phone number I've had for 25 years -- totally gone and given to someone else," she said. "I never thought I would feel unsafe cyber-wise, but this is like cyber terror."
Thieves stole her information and changed all the passwords on her social media and bank accounts.
Information technology expert Scott Bailey said protection from this type of attack is all about passwords.
"The password you use for your email account should not be used anywhere else," Bailey said.
He said passwords should be different from account to account. If the base of the password remains the same, it's better to use different numbers on the end.
Anyone who uses an app to store passwords needs to have a strong password for that app.
"Do a little research," Bailey said. "Not necessarily the cheapest or free one."
Experts warn against using passwords thieves could guess by looking at social media. Someone who posts about their dog frequently shouldn't use the dog's name as a password.
When creating random accounts online, such as on shopping websites, experts warn against using an actual birthday.
To protect against porting, go online and set a PIN code that's different from others so the number can't be ported without that code.
When Laura realized she had been hacked, she went to her bank account and email first, changing those passwords.
Anyone who believes they have been hacked should take their computer and phone to an IT company.