Modern smartphones act as our phones, computers, calendars, wallets, and much more. We rely on them in order to connect with the world around us and keep our assets in check. Despite the convenience, this also makes them prime targets for hackers who want to steal our information.
One such scam is called SIM swapping, which basically involves exploiting your carrier’s security in order to take control of your cell phone number. This can have huge ramifications if it happens to you, and it could take a long time to repair the damage done. Here Navi tells you what SIM Swapping is, how it works, and how you can avoid it.
What is a SIM Card?
In order to understand how a SIM swap attack works, you need to have an idea of what your SIM card is. Your SIM card is hardware that allows you to connect your device to your mobile network. It contains personalized information such as your individual phone number and a contact list.
Without a SIM card, your phone cannot make calls or texts, and your phone is basically just a small computer. The importance of the SIM card makes it a prime target for people who are attempting an account takeover to steal information and data.
All phones made in the last few decades have a SIM card, whether they be flip phones or smartphones.
How Does SIM Swapping Work?
SIM Swapping is a process where hackers exploit your phone’s two-factor identification system.
The scammer will start by calling your mobile carrier and pretending to be you. They will report that their SIM card was damaged and request that their carrier activate a new SIM card that is owned by the scammer.
They then use data that they already learned about you to beat the security questions in place. People who do this put in a lot of preparation work and are normally skilled hackers.
Once the SIM card is sent, the scammers now have access to your phone number and your phone history and contacts. Specifically, they can look through your text messages to find passwords and codes.
Any confirmation codes or requests would still be visible to them, and they can use whatever information they find to steal your data. This could give them access to anything ranging from email accounts to your banking information.
How Do Scammers Get Your Info?
Social media and internet presence play a huge part in SIM Swap scams. When security questions are one of your main lines of defense, it is important to choose ones that cannot be answered with a Google search. For example, common security questions include your mother’s maiden name or the school you went to, both of which could be potentially determined through public records.
It is also possible that these scammers do their research by observing your social media profiles to determine as much about you as they can for when they attempt to impersonate you.
Be careful how much of your personal info you put on the internet, and if you think that there might be public information online, try to avoid allowing that information to match up with your security questions.
How To Tell if You are a Victim
- You see unauthorized activity
- You can’t access your mobile network
- You are locked out of your accounts
There are a number of red flags that can pop up and indicate that you are a victim of SIM swap fraud. Keep an eye on your devices and accounts to be sure that these things are not happening to you.
You See Unauthorized Activity
An easy one to see is unauthorized activity on one of your accounts. If you see banking activity or social media activity that you did not authorize or do yourself, it is possible that someone took control of your phone number and performed these tasks. If they had full access to your accounts, it is even possible that you wouldn’t get a notification for it, so it is important to watch your info diligently.
You Can’t Access Your Mobile Network
If your SIM card in your phone isn’t active, then you won’t be able to make calls or send text messages through your mobile network. If this is happening to you, it is possible that your current SIM card was deactivated by a scammer when they requested a new one. Look out for notifications that your SIM card has been activated on a different device, as this could be a sign of SIM swapping.
You are Locked Out of Your Accounts
If you can't access important accounts such as your banking accounts, contact your bank immediately to check if there is a SIM card discrepancy. It is possible that scammers have already taken control of your account, and it needs to be frozen and fixed.
This is another reason why it is important to keep an eye on your accounts even if you don’t find yourself using them often. These scammers rely on people failing to check on their accounts in order to keep their process going.
What Can You Do About a SIM Swap?
Take preventative action with your information to make sure you aren’t a victim of SIM swapping. For starters, be diligent in your own online behavior by keeping a close eye on your accounts and keeping your information off the internet. Educate yourself about common scams such as phishing scams to keep your information out of the hands of scammers.
In addition to this, increase your security in whatever way you can. Make sure you have strong passwords and solid security questions. Turn on notifications for all of your important accounts and make sure your important information is password protected. Ensure that you know who to contact if you suspect a breach.
SIM swapping is unfortunately simple, and it is important that you are always on the lookout for potential scammers. Keep your data secure, and don’t share too much of your personal information online. Keep a close watch on your personal SIM card to make sure you are the only one accessing your phone number.
SIM swapping is hard to fight, but there are plenty of things you can do to keep your data safe. Changes in your behaviors and your security measures will go a long way towards keeping you safe from online threats.
Visit the Navi resources page for more information on protecting your mobile phone information.
What is a SIM card? | WhatIs.com
SIM swap fraud explained and how to help protect yourself | Norton
What is a Sim Swap? Definition and Related FAQs | Yubico
T-Mobile data breach and SIM-swap scam: How to protect your identity | CNET