While little known among consumers, cell-phone account fraud can have a devastating impact on your finances—and your reputation.

Though relatively unknown, cell-phone account fraud is growing rapidly. In 2017 the number of victims of fraudulent mobile-phone accounts jumped 63 percent from a year earlier, to about 340,000, according to Javelin.

"These are relatively new crimes, and there's no reason to think that this is close to plateauing," says Edward McAndrew, a former federal cybercrime prosecutor who is now a partner at Ballard Spahr.

"You have a new and quickly growing form of crime, the objectives of which go well beyond financial loss," says McAndrew. "In many ways we're seeing the weaponization of digital technology—infrastructure, platforms, devices, and data. And this type of fraud is an illustration of that."

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