There are all kinds of scams out there that we need to protect ourselves from, and one that is especially on the rise right now is known as SIM swapping.
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This type of scam takes control of your phone number and makes everything from receiving calls and texts to accessing your banking information an absolute nightmare.
Here’s what to know about the SIM swapping scam. (Kurt Knutsson)
What is a SIM card?
A SIM card, or a subscriber identity module card, is a small card that contains a chip and is placed inside every smartphone. The SIM card is what allows you to receive calls and text messages on your phone. Without a SIM card, smartphones would be useful only for accessing the Internet on a WiFi network or taking pictures and videos.
How do SIM swap scams work?
The reason why criminals would want access to your SIM card is that it allows them to have complete control over your phone number. They start by gathering as much information on you as they can. They might do this through social media stalking, data collection through phishing emails, buying your personal and financial information on the dark web and more.
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Once they feel they have enough of your information, they call your phone carrier and pretend to be you. They tell the carrier that the SIM card to their (your) phone is either lost or damaged so that the carrier will activate a new card in the scammer’s possession.
When that happens, your telephone will port to the scammer’s phone instead of your phone, and all your calls and text messages will go directly to them instead of you.
Once scammers have control over your phone number, they can access your bank, email or social media accounts by receiving codes and password resets directly to their phone. They might even set up a second bank account in your name to gain more access to your funds. An attacker can then use this access to steal your money or engage in other criminal activity.
HOW TO TELL IF YOUR PHONE HAS BEEN HACKED
How do I know if I’m a victim of SIM swapping?
Here are some key clues that might tell you that you’ve been a victim of SIM swap fraud:
- You can’t make any calls or send text messages: Your phone will not allow you to send texts or make calls without a SIM card. So, if your SIM card is no longer connected to your phone, you’ll start receiving error messages every time you try to do one of these actions. This is the first warning sign that you may be a victim of SIM swapping.
- You’re notified of suspicious activity: Your phone carrier may notify you once a new SIM card has been activated. If you did not authorize this, then it’s a scam.
- You can’t access your accounts: If your login credentials no longer work for any of your banking and credit card accounts, then the scammer may have already gained access to those accounts and changed the information.
- There are suspicious transactions on your bank accounts: If you’re able to check your banking and credit card accounts and notice any transactions you don’t remember making, then you may be a victim of SIM swapping.
How can I protect myself from SIM swapping?
- Be extra careful while online: Whether you’re making social media posts or browsing through your emails, you need to be careful about what information you put on the web. Don’t ever share any personal or banking information online, and always be on the lookout for suspicious phishing emails.
- Account security: Make sure that any account linked to your phone has a strong and unique password and answers to security questions that only you would know.
- Have a PIN: Always opt to have a PIN for your communications if that’s an option that your phone carrier offers.
- Authentication apps: It’s best to have 2-factor authentication wherever it is offered, including for your bank accounts, email and any other private accounts you have.
- Bank and mobile carrier alert: If your bank offers alerts for whenever there is an activity within your account, or if your phone carrier offers to give notifications whenever a new SIM card is activated, always opt for those options.
- Behavioral analysis technology: Some banks can use technology that analyzes customer behavior to help them discover compromised devices. Find out if your bank offers this.
- Callbacks: Some organizations call customers back to make sure they are who they say they are. Ask if your bank, phone carrier, credit card company, and other important organization to you offer this option.
- Always protect your personal information and keep it private: Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls or messages that ask for personal information.
- Invest in good identity theft protection to provide you with alerts for suspicious activity, monitor credit reports and offer tools to help you recover from identity theft. See my tips and best picks on how to protect yourself from identity theft by searching ‘identity theft‘ at CyberGuy.com by clicking the magnifying glass icon at the top of my website.
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Tell us if you’ve been hurt by SIM swapping. (Kurt Knutsson)
Have you been the victim of a SIM-swapping scam? Tell us about your experience.
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