While the Bristol family was busy enjoying Christmas, it appears hackers were busy going after the family's money and they had no idea until a text message popped up on December 26.
It took some phone calls to confirm the bad news.
"My phone number's been hijacked. Someone else has taken it, according to Metro PCS,” Tony Bristol of Issaquah explained.
After transferring their cell service from T-Mobile, Bristol claims the hackers used the family's phone numbers to try and get into their Wells Fargo account. That was the real goal: get into their bank account and use the phone to transfer money, possibly using a service like Zelle.
Fortunately, the bank realized something might be wrong and locked the account. Still, there was no doubt thieves were impersonating the couple and trying several avenues to get their money.
They even got a call from a Metro PCS store in Florida, where someone had allegedly tried to buy a SIM card for one of their phones.
“They had the last four digits of my Social Security Number; somehow they got access to that data and they were able to penetrate our account,” Bristol explained.
It took hours on the phone and trips to both the bank and the T-mobile store to sort it out. In the process, the family discovered they were not alone. KING 5's sister station KUSA in Denver featured another T-mobile/Wells Fargo customer with a similar problem.
In that case, thieves were able to steal a large sum of money. Others have taken their frustrations to Twitter and sites like Reddit.
The family has their phone numbers back now but say they want the cell phone company to be more responsive to customers.
“I was getting a little frustrated because I could tell the support engineers didn't know what was going on or the severity of it,” Bristol said.
KING 5 talked with T-Mobile, who said it's an industry-wide problem. They have added a feature that allows customers to set up a password to prevent people from porting their phone service to other carriers and hopes customers will take advantage of it.
The family has it now but believes T-Mobile needs to do a better job of getting the word out.
“There's no standard operating procedure about how to deal with this issue, and if I hadn't been so aggressive about this… who knows where this would be." said Bristol.
T-Mobile says customers can get more information and help by checking the T-Mobile website.
Wells Fargo did not respond to our questions with information about this situation but did provide these links for more information for customers: