Consumer advice: Don’t get caught by FaceTime bug

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If you have FaceTime on your Apple device you may want to disable it. A bug was recently discovered that potentially lets callers eavesdrop on people they were calling even though the recipient didn’t pick up the call.

The bug works on iPhones and iPads running iOS 12.1 and Apple PCs running macOS Mojave. Apple has released a statement stating a fix will be issued in the software update later this week.

The bug is activated when calling someone via FaceTime. After the call starts to dial, swipe up to add another person to the call and add your own phone number. This seems to allow the one who initiated the call to hear the live audio on the other person’s phone even though they didn’t accept the call. And the person who received the call has no idea their conversation is being transmitted.

You can avoid this bug by disabling FaceTime on all your devices until Apple’s software update is released. On your apple device, go to settings and scroll down to FaceTime and slide the switch to gray from green. On the Mac, open the FaceTime app and go to FaceTime on top of screen, then select “Turn FaceTime Off.”

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PORTING SCAM DEFINED: Scammers are a clever lot. Now they’re stealing people’s phone numbers in a scheme known as “porting” or “port-out scamming.”

Porting allows customers to take their phone number with them when they change phone carriers. I did some research and the law requires carriers to provide this number porting feature, even if you have an outstanding balance or unpaid termination fees on your account.

So what do criminals need to effectuate this scam? They need only a few pieces of personal information like your cell number, name, date of birth and maybe your Social Security number’s last four digits. They then impersonate you by calling your mobile service provider and taking control of your account.

Cellphone number porting isn’t new but it is something to be more aware of as it becomes more prevalent and consequences multiply. Once thieves port your number to another service provider, they can tap into other accounts of yours that require codes or a text sent to your phone. That means your bank accounts, email service and more could be at their fingertips in no time.

Some mobile service providers are sending alerts to their customers about the scam. One such message from T-Mobile (which is particularly susceptible to this scam) reads:

“Fraudsters are attempting to compromise personal bank accounts by gaining access to your wireless account. They do this by guessing common security PINs, such as birthdates, sequential numbers (e.g., 12345678), or repetitive numbers (e.g., 11111111).”

One telltale sign you may be a victim of porting is if your phone suddenly switches to “Emergency Call Service Only” or something close to it. If you see that, call your service provider at once. Supposedly this message pops up when a number has been transferred to another phone.

For more details check your carrier’s website and change your account security PIN and/or security question to something that’s hard to guess.

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SUSPICIOUS SS CALLS: Just this week, I’ve received three calls from readers warning us that they’ve received calls claiming to be from the Social Security Administration criminal division. Of course, the caller states that due to improper or illegal activity with a citizen’s Social Security number, the citizen will be arrested if they fail to call the provided phone number to take care of the issue at once.

These scammers are using increasingly threatening language to get the recipient to hand over their personal information. The Social Security Administration is aware of these calls and warns us it’s a scam because SSA employees will never threaten you for information and they won’t say you will be arrested.

The calls that were recently reported were spoofed from a 208 area code but you should also know that the actual SSA customer service number 1-800-772-1213 has been spoofed by scammers. That means we might think it is actually the SSA office calling us when it’s not.

Be extremely cautious about providing any information over the phone. If you receive a suspicious call, report it to 1-800-269-0271 or online at: https://oig.ssa.gov/report

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Remember: I’m on your side.

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If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. As The Cd’A Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. Please include your name and a phone number or email. I’m available to speak about consumerism to schools, local and civic groups. I’m a copywriter, columnist and consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.

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