West Van police spokesman goes public after cyber thieves try to drain his bank account

As communications officer for the West Vancouver Police Department, Const. Kevin Goodmurphy is well versed in reporting on crimes in the community.

What's he's not accustomed to is naming himself as victim in a news release, which is exactly what happened after cyber thieves tried to drain his bank account after gaining control of his personal cellphone through a scam known as "porting" or "SIM swapping."

"Yeah, it was definitely different," said Goodmurphy. "That was a conversation I had with with our chief, whether or not to personalize [the release].

Last week, Goodmurphy discovered someone impersonating him had requested his mobile provider "port" or move his number to a new SIM card on a different device.

Once that happens, the criminal is in control and able to add apps for things like the victim's banking, email and social media accounts. The bad guy then obtains access to the accounts by hitting the "forgot password" button.

Accounts protected with two way authentication will send new verification codes to the fraudster's device, thus giving them access to the victim's accounts.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Goodmurphy says he was able to thwart the criminals attempt to steal thousands of dollars by acting quickly once he noticed an alert from his cellphone provider saying his number was being ported.

"They had got a temporary PIN number and were able to have free range, if you will, in my banking app," he said. "They created a new account that they had just moved the money over to and were just waiting for that to complete."

Ontario police issue warning

Goodmurphy says his case is the first of its kind reported in West Vancouver, although the scam seems to be a growing problem in Canada. Last month, the Ontario Provincial Police, Ontario Serious Fraud Office and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre issued a public warning about porting.

"Fraudsters may empty your bank accounts, apply for credit in your good name or impersonate you to defraud your entire contact list. In the meantime, you lose access to your mobile service, are typically locked out of all your accounts and are left scrambling," said the OPP.

Goodmurphy said despite the relatively happy ending to his story, the ordeal created a great deal of stress.

"I was on the phone for hours on end, made personal visits to the bank and different places," he said. "I mean frankly I'd never even heard of this scam before this happened to me."

He says anyone who thinks that they are being targeted in a porting scam should immediately contact their service provider.

Some other ways to protect yourself include:

  • Keeping all personal information confidential. It is as simple as not publishing a date of birth on social media.

  • Not replying to phishing emails or text messages asking to confirm a password or update account information.

  • Use an offline password manager.

  • Contact your phone provider and ask about additional security measures that may be available.

  • If you lose mobile service on your device, contact a service provider immediately.