New fraud protection hopes to protect Kiwis from mobile number porting hackers

A more advanced solution is under development for launch later this year.
A more advanced solution is under development for launch later this year Photo credit: Getty Images

From tomorrow New Zealanders who want to keep their mobile phone number when switching providers - known as number porting - will receive an SMS text message to help prevent fraud.

Number porting fraud has been relatively rare in Aotearoa, with government cybersecurity agency CERT NZ saying less than 10 Kiwis had been hit by the scam prior to March last year.

But because it can give hackers access to so much of the victim's online life, the impact can be devastating with the average loss worth around $30,000.

Once a fraudster has access to the victim's mobile phone number, they then can take advantage of the two-factor authentication used by online banks to authenticate logins and large money transfers.

The new SMS will alert the user their mobile provider has received a request to port their phone number and highlight that they should contact their mobile provider and bank immediately if they didn't request it.

"Number porting was put in place in 2007 to make it easy for consumers to retain their existing phone number when changing mobile providers," said NZ Telecommunications Forum Communications Director Andrew Pirie. 

"However, as an industry we've become concerned recently about the potential for fraudsters to exploit the Number Porting process. With these new security measures, we aim to add another layer of protection for our customers."

A more advanced SMS solution, which will require customers to reply to an SMS confirming they want to port their number, is under development and is expected to be rolled out in October 2021.