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Thieves are stealing phone numbers, accessing sensitive information

You guard your social security number and your credit card number with your life, but chances are, you're not as careful with your phone number.

You guard your social security number and your credit card number with your life, but chances are, you're not as careful with your phone number.

In fact, it's probably the one number you don't think twice about sharing.

Thieves know that. They've come up with a way to steal your personal information, using only your cell phone number –--and a clever story.

“’I lost my phone, I need it right away, I'm in a real serious problem,’” said Steve Weisman, author of Identity Theft Alert, laying out a hypothetical conversation between a scammer and a representative from the phone company.

He added, “They have knowledge of psychology that Freud would have been envious of, and they will convince someone from the phone company to shift the phone number over.”

Weisman has been watching this scam closely.

He said once a thief convinces a phone company representative to switch your number to their device, they gain access to everything, including email accounts, contact lists, even mobile banking.

While your accounts might be password protected, many apps send a security code to your phone number when you get locked out -- the phone number that the thief now controls.

“The repercussions are so serious, we have to take precautions,” said Weisman.

The good news is there's a relatively simple solution.

“What you can do is you can have a pin or a password that your phone number, your sim card, cannot be changed to another phone without the use of that pin,” said Weisman.

NBC 10 News reached out to the four major carriers for a response.

Verizon, Sprint and AT&T said they strongly encourage customers to contact their carrier and request a pin or passcode be placed on their account. T-Mobile did not respond.

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