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What is sim swapping scam – How they do and how to stay safe from it?

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What is SIM swapping? Sim swapping is the process of transferring your existing phone number to new sim card. There is need for sim swapping when you lost your SIM card or if it is damaged. Scammers use this process to perform a fraud known as SIM swap scam. A SIM swap scam is also known as a SIM splitting, port-out scam, Smishing and simjacking. But what if someone could change your personal SIM card number and transfer it to their own number? What could they possibly do if they have full control over your SIM card?

Sim swap scams have led people to lose millions of dollar and a high number of cases were seen in early 2018. But do you really know what is sim swapping scam? Sim swapping can make your bank account empty and lead to hijacking of your other forms of online accounts credentials. It is as much dangerous as it sounds. Thousands of people become victim of sim swapping and loses their money and online credentials. Sim swap fraud isn’t easy to perform but when a hacker is obsessed with performing it and if you are careless then you can easily become a victim of it.

Sim swapping fraud lets a hacker take over your sim card and perform the activities related with your sim card use. In such a case, neither your password can protect you nor 2 step verification can protect you. There are several things you need to know about sim swapping including what is it, how hackers perform this fraud and how you can protect yourself. I will provide you with the techniques that fraudsters or scammers use to perform sim swap. This can help you to be aware and protect yourself.

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What is SIM swapping scam?

What is SIM swappingSIM swapping scam is the type of scam on which a scammer collects data about you and impersonates and behaves like you with your sim operator in order to swap your SIM card with his SIM card. After a successful attempt, the SIM card is reassigned to cybercriminal and they get access to victim SIM card and credentials related to it. In the past 6 years, this scam is increasing at a rapid pace even though the security field and people are being smart.

SIM swapping involves hacker to assign your phone number to their SIM card. This causes your SIM card to deactivate and all your calls, messages, notifications and activities related to SIM are performed from hacker’s SIM card.  Now the fraudster can easily get access to your online social media or email credentials including your bank account and financial accounts. They can also bypass text message 2- factor authentication like it’s nothing now.

Interesting SIM Swapping cases

Many high profile social media accounts like Twitter and Instagram were hacked using sim swapping. In 2019, the Twitter account of CEO of Twitter itself was hacked via SIM Swapping or sim jacking. Jack Dorsey’s account was hacked and taken control for about 30 minutes and various offensive tweets were made.  Scammers somehow convinced Dorsey’s phone carrier to swap the SIM card and get Dorsey’s phone number assigned to their SIM card and phone. They then used Cloudhopper’s text-to-tweet service for Twitter.

Ellis Pinsky who was an 18-year-old boy used sim swapping to steal $23.8 million worth digital currencies from an American investor Michael Terpin. This is really shocking news as such a small age boy pull out such a high scale scam.

How to find if your sim is swapped?

What is SIM swappingSim swapping can make you it’s the victim anytime. It’s always better to stay alert. Here are some of the signs which you will see when you become a victim of sim swapping.

  • You are unable to place calls or send messages. If this happens for a long time then your sim might be swapped. It’s better to check the mobile network at first to confirm. If your sim doesn’t work then take it as the first sign.
  • You are notified from your sim operator that your SIM is activated from another device. This feature may not be available for every sim operators. You can use third-party apps to send you a message when your sim card is activated from another device. This can be life-saving alert for you.
  • You receive emails about your login credentials being changed or your accounts are accessed. You can get login notification too. It’s better to immediately check financial accounts credentials and change it at first.

How does a fraudster perform sim swapping?

The beginning of SIM swapping is connected with information gathering done by fraudster and ability of SIM operator to port your phone number to new sim card. Such scammers impersonate you and contact the call service operator and ask them to change the phone number and assign it to a new SIM card.

The very first step is information gathering. Hackers first make you as their target. Then they began to dox you. They will search your Facebook and other social media profiles in order to find information like your place of birth, your current residential location, permanent address, date of birth, high school and colleges, mother and father full name and so on. They will search for your email and try to send you phishing link containing the form which requests the additional information like ID card, passport, license, social security number, etc which they might need. They might even look for data breaches to find your social security number or ID card too.

Now second steps scammers perform after collecting enough data about you is calling the Call operator. Now they will impersonate you and provide enough data about you to sim operator and try to convince them. They might say your phone was lost or like that and ask the customer service representative to assign your number to a new SIM card. Now the number in possession of scammer get activated and victims number is ported to scammers sim card. With enough proof, they can convince easily and get the phone number assigned to their sim card.

What to do when you become sim swap victim?

You might not know when your SIM will be Swapped. In the case of sim Swapping, you must not panic and carefully follow up the things given below.

  • Immediately contact your bank and other financial institutions with whom you are associated and ask them to keep your account on hold by informing them about the sim swapping.
  • Change the phone number from your email accounts, google or apple accounts and financial account like a bank, PayPal, etc. Better to change the email address associated with the phone number immediately. Don’t ever send password reset link or 2-factor codes as your SIM card is in control of cyber-criminal.
  • Report the call operator about SIM Swapping and ask them to stop the SIM card. This will be hard as your original number is in control of the hacker. Better to take police support and provide with enough evidence too if needed.
  • File identity theft and sim swapping report in your nearest police station. Now, wait until they take action.

How to protect yourself from sim swapping

If you don’t want to become a victim of SIM swapping then here are some things which you must consider.

  • Stay alert online: You should be aware of phishing emails or links. Don’t put your personal data carelessly whenever you see a login form or information and survey form. You don’t know who might be targeting you for taking out information about you so that they can use such information to convince call operator to perform sim swapping.
  • Alert on social media: Always think before you share your information on social media like Facebook and Instagram. Your mother’s middle name, your email address, your date birth, etc are the crucial information which you must not ever disclose on social media from my point of view. Half of your information and daily routines are taken by hackers from Facebook while doxing you.
  • In the case of mobile phone theft of lost: If you lost your mobile phone then immediately contact your sim provider and ask them to locate your device if possible. If you don’t find your phone then just close your SIM card and swap it with a new one as fast as you can.
  • SIM Swapping alerts: You can contact your SIM card provider and ask if they provide alerts on email in case of sim swapping or reissue. A feature like confirmation with email before sim swap could protect you from sim swapping.
  • Online account security: Don’t entirely connect your account security with your SIM. You can use Google Authenticator for 2-factor authentication and email for secondary recovery option too along with the phone number. This can save you from many disasters that sim swapping could cause.
  • PIN and PUK codes: You can ask for your Personal Identification Number(PIN) and Personal Unblocking Key (PUK) in case of emergency so that you can unblock your sim card. Never share such codes with anyone.

Sim swapping is expanding globally as the technology is expanding. You don’t know when your sim gets swap and you become one of the victims. I hope this article caused some awareness about sim swapping scam and you knew how you can protect yourself. Please share this crucial information with your family and friends so that they can also get protected from the devastation caused by this scam.

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