Hackers take over family's Wireless account, shut down phones and take over financial apps

All of one family's smartphones were taken over, including their banking apps, after their wireless account was hacked. Now, more than four months later, they're still trying to regain control of their digital lives.

The single account was linked to five phones, and one day every one of them was shut down.

"[They] went into SOS mode, meaning we weren't able to use cellular service. Couldn't receive phone calls or text messages," said Mike, who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

He did not want to use his last name or exact location because he fears scammers are still targeting him and his family.

Mike and his wife are blocked from their Amazon and social media accounts.

"They actually physically got into her phone. We know this because of the fact that apps were added onto her phone that she didn't add, contact numbers were changed to friends and family," he said. "Contacts were added into her phone. We must have had easily 100 account passwords changed."

They are also currently locked out of investment apps like RobinHood and the crypto app Coinbase, where they had a total of about $1,200. They also lost $2,000 in stolen Apple Cash and gift cards stored on their phones.

"There were bank transfers that they attempted," Mike said. "Luckily, we stopped it in time and they were able to stop that."

The family also lost ability to access anything via two-factor authentication. His wife is locked out of her email account.

Mike said the scammers got complete access of their lives.

"It got down to, because they had access to our phones, they had, we had notes on our phone which contained our garage code information so they were able to open and close our garage if they wanted," he said.

Mike said he's disappointed in his cell phone carrier Cricket Wireless over their response.

"We tried calling the Cricket Wireless customer service helpline. Every time we called, nobody can help us, nobody can do anything about it," he said.

Cricket Wireless said the family is the victim of what's known as the SIM swap scam, which is when criminals obtain an account PIN, or other personal information, to get into a customer's phone account and move that number and information to their phone.

Cricket said it has measures in place help defeat SIM swaps "and we work closely with law enforcement, our industry and consumers to help prevent this type of crime. We take these matters seriously."

"This PIN code is what they said is what the person used to gain access into the phone, so consequently they said it was my fault that, somehow, the PIN code was used to obtain access into that account," Mike claimed. "There's no way that somebody could have gained a PIN code from me. It wasn't written anywhere, nobody knew it but me."

Experts said criminals can buy personal information or even PINs you may have used in the past for other accounts on the dark web. To protect yourself, change your PIN regularly and make sure it's not a birth date or a something a scammer can figure out if they research you on social media.

Cricket's website says it is "building tools to make it harder for someone to pretend to be you," and that it's "training employees to recognize fraud attempts," and "developing enhanced authentication methods."

"We thought the financial issue was our major thing but it turned out it's the emotional," Mike said. "I mean, this is taking just an emotional toll, the amount of hours that it's taken to figure this whole thing out. We've had to take so many days off work that we can't even count. The frustration of trying to prove that we are who we say we are."

Experts say you should protect your identity by limiting information on social media, like your full date of birth and mother's maiden name.

We also reached out to the RobinHood and Coinbase, since the family is locked out of those accounts. So far, Coinbase said it's working with the family to get them back in.

It's unclear if there is money still in those investment accounts.