The V.I. Police Department Economic Crime Unit issued a warning Friday about an increase in telephone numbers being cloned in the territory, and gave a list of tips on how to avoid the practice.
“Presently, we have seen a large increase in phone cloning scams used to request funds, iTunes cards, and phone cards,” the police statement said.
Mobile phone cloning is copying the identity of one mobile telephone to another mobile telephone. The purpose of phone cloning is making fraudulent telephone calls. The bills for the calls go to the owner of the legitimate phone.
According to police, the scammers solicit people by “cloning” their telephones using a scanner to retrieve their electronic serial number and their phones identification number from the victim’s phone. This allows the scammer to clone the victim’s phone and review their contact history displayed in the victim’s telephone.
This then gives the scammers access to communicate over the telephone or through text messages using the victim’s phone number once the cloning is completed.
When the scammer communicates over the telephone it is very brief and they act like the owners of the telephone number being displayed, requesting funds from family members, saying that the owners are sick or in the hospital.
“This criminal activity is currently affecting our economy,” according to Friday’s police statement.
The VIPD offered the following advice for preventing having your phone cloned or detecting if it has been.
– Avoid answering any phone calls from suspicious numbers and avoid providing personal information over the phone or through text message, even if the telephone number appears to be an individual you know.
– Do not wire or send funds through Western Union or Money Gram to individuals because they are sick or to win any funds. Check your phone bills to verify that no calls are being made from out of our district.
– Keep your phone with you at all times, turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when not in use, clear browsing history and cookies regularly, use security applications to keep the phone protected, stay away from using unfamiliar Wi-Fi access, and check out applications before installing them.
Friday’s statement said the police are seeking help from the community to stay alert and also advise anyone who feels they have been a victim to contact the VIPD Economic Crime Unit on St. Croix at 340-778-1001 or St. Thomas at 340-774-3942, the 911 call center, or the anonymous tip service, Crime Stoppers USVI, at 800-222-8477 (TIPS.)