WINNIPEG -- A Winnipeg woman is looking for answers after her wireless phone number was stolen and used to open a new account with a different service provider while she was travelling abroad.

Allison Waedt was in Australia when she received an email from PayPal that some of her account details had been changed. That wasn’t the only red flag -- when she got back to Canada on Nov.23, Waedt learned her cell phone account had also been compromised. She found out after putting her SIM card back in her phone after using a different one during her travels.

“When I got back I tried to use my phone and my phone wasn’t working,” said Waedt.

She called her wireless service provider to find out why and to her surprise, Waedt was told her account had been closed on Nov.6.

“And I said, ‘Nope. That wasn’t me,’” Waedt explained. “They said, ‘this is another fraud case.’”

“I also asked them, ‘how can you close my account without talking to me’ because I was just shocked.”

It’s known as wireless number porting fraud. While customers can legitimately move their cell numbers from one carrier to another, the process is also being used by criminals, according to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, which represents companies that provide wireless service and products.

A CWTA spokesperson said fraudsters can obtain people’s information in a variety of ways: phishing campaigns, acquiring personal information from the dark web, buying it from organized criminals or manipulating customers to get their information.

“Porting numbers allows wireless subscribers to keep their number when they switch service providers,” the CWTA spokesperson said in an email to CTV News. “This makes it easier for consumers to switch service providers and offers them greater choice. 

“Unfortunately there are criminals who seek to try and exploit these systems. This is not unique to Canada.”

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has put out a warning on its website about the scam which it said can be used to get into your email, social media, and financial accounts. From there, it said the fraudsters can empty your bank accounts, apply for credit in your name and gain access to your contacts.

Waedt says she’s relieved that so far no money has been taken but she’s feeling paranoid about the whole ordeal. 

“I don’t know where they got the information in the first place,” said Waedt. “So that makes me wonder about what other information they might have and what other accounts they might be able to get into.”

Waedt's provider is Rogers and her number was ported to Bell, the parent company of CTV.

Rogers said in an email it takes the personal information of customers very seriously and that the company's working with other carriers to continually strengthen their processes to prevent unauthorized porting -- including new protections put in place this fall.

Bell said its security team suspended the account due to suspected fraud. Waedt's service provider confirmed the fraudulent port, the Bell account was closed and her number was ported back to Rogers.

The CWTA spokesperson said its members meet regularly to review technical standards and procedures used to facilitate porting and meet CRTC imposed parameters.

“As fraudsters are constantly evolving techniques to try and take advantage of wireless consumers, our members continually strengthen their security measures and verification procedures,” said the spokesperson. “The standards and procedures for number porting are regularly reviewed and, when necessary, revised, whether to improve the process or address an issue such as number porting fraud.”