Scammers can do anything to ensure that they get hold of your personal information. Did you even know that phone number fraud is a thing?
Well, it is.
Now, if your phone is your primary go-to device for paying your bills, checking your email, or even posting on social media, definitely you’re not alone.
Now imagine your phone suddenly stops functioning: no text messages, no data, and no phone calls. Even worse, you then receive a notification from the cellular provider making you aware that your SIM card has already been activated on a different device.
What’s going on?
The truth is, scammers have just pulled a successful SIM card swap, and your phone number has been hijacked.
Wait, what’s a SIM swap? How do scammers pull off such a thing so easily?
What’s SIM Swapping?
SIM swapping is not something new to most folks; it’s when you request to have a new SIM card from your operator and then transfer the current phone number to your new SIM. It’s something that phone customers do in most cases and for legitimate reasons.
Unfortunately, it’s something cybercriminals do as well, but for wrong reasons.
Simply put, SIM swapping is an account takeover scam – it’s when your SIM card as well mobile identity is taken by scammers who intend to manipulate your information for their gain.
So, how is it done?
Ideally, the entire thing is about social engineering. It all starts with the scammer contacting your service provider and request to activate a new phone that they own. They pretend entirely to be you and can give a reason like “my phone got stolen” and bought a new SIM card that wants to transfer the previous cell phone number to the new phone.
If the provider buys such a bogus story, which they will – it’s their job to help customers, and then you would have lost control of your SIM card to the scammer. Now, with your data in someone else’s hands, what that means is anyone’s guess!
But why would someone go as far as impersonating you just to gain control over your phone number?
Now, the main reason is the two-factor authentication (2FA) and the one-time password (OTP) that’s sent to you as a text to protect your personal information.
With the phone control, they can simply set new passwords to different accounts that might include your bank accounts. It’s even worse in the case that you haven’t activated two-factor authentication. In that case, the hacker will use the device number and deceive internet accounts to provide passwords as well as personal data.
SIM swap cases have been on the rise, with cryptocurrency investors feeling the most impact. But generally, the results of such incidents are always severe.
Is a SIM Swap Illegal?
Impersonating someone is, without a doubt, illegal in this kind of scenario. Identity theft is, in fact, a severe offense, and it’s no different from SIM hijacking.
Moreover, a SIM swap will give the hacker access to social media handles that offers them an edge to start stalking their targets – cyberstalking, which in itself, cyberstalking is a crime. Therefore, it’s easy to see that in all aspects, SIM swapping is just but illegal.
How to Tell If You Might be a Victim of SIM Swapping
There’s no denying that staying out of the radar of SIM swap scams can be challenging; therefore, all you need to do is to look out for warning signs to help you shut down any scammer as soon as possible.
The best way to know whether you’re a victim is to look for any signals on your device; for instance, you might get one notifying you that your SIM card for your phone has been changed. In that instance, you need to call your carrier’s customer support. Unfortunately, if the swap has already taken place, you might not be able to contact them.
Therefore, when your SIM card is no longer active, then it’s a clear sign that you’re already a possible victim of a SIM swap. In such instances, you’re unable to receive or send text messages and calls.
Another significant indicator is when you’re unable to access your accounts. For instance, if your login details are no longer working for accounts, such as your credit card and bank accounts, then most probably you’ve been taken over.
Moreover, if you notice unusual activity on your social media platforms, such as tweets that are not yours, then that should be a red flag.
How to Protect Yourself against SIM Swapping
One thing is for sure; it’s hard to stop someone from targeting you, and sometimes even with the best internet computer security practices in place, a skilled attacker can take you down.
However, the good news is taking some easy steps will help you limit your chances of a SIM swap attack;
PIN Codes – most mobile network providers offer an option for you to secure your SIM card using a PIN safely. Using a PIN to unblock your SIM card places some layer of protection that can make it difficult for a scammer to comprise the SIM card.
Watch Your Online Behavior – hackers can use a plethora of ways to ensure that they get your personal information. For instance, they can send some phishing emails that might look genuine, but it could be the route for hackers to access your data once you click. Therefore, you should be cautious online.
Authentication App – some authentication apps like Google Authenticator will provide you with 2FA and link you to a physical device and not your device number.
Limit Sharing Personal Information – if possible; you need to avoid the amount of personal information you share online. For instance, avoid posting your address, full name, and phone number. An attacker could use such info to answer security questions that could be required to verify identity as well as log into your accounts.
Behavioral Analysis Technology – it’s a world of technology, and banks can use technology to analyze customer behavior, which will help discover as well as identify compromised devices and will ensure that they don’t send confidential information.
Call-backs – it’s also an excellent option that some organizations call customers back to confirm that they are indeed who they claim to be.
What If You’re a Victim of a SIM Swap?
If you’re a victim of a SIM swap, then it’s clear that someone indeed wants your personal information badly to the extent of tricking your carrier provider. Now in case that happens, ensure that you find a way to contact your carrier service care immediately and then follow the required steps to regain your phone number.
Also, you need to report your case to the police for them to start investigations. Moreover, it will help you avoid getting into any trouble if your phone number is used to commit a crime.
Another thing is to check online accounts as well as bank accounts to look for any unauthorized charges and behavior. If you see one, report them as well.
Nevertheless, it’s always better to stay ahead with prevention as it’s better than cure. No one is immune to SIM swap, and when it happens, it can be devastating.