Beware SIM swap fraud where your calls and texts are redirected to criminals

28 February 2020

Criminals are tricking phone companies into swapping SIMS to phones they control and stealing thousands


Customers at big name mobile operators are being warned to be on the look out for SIM swap fraud.

SIM swapping occurs when a fraudster contacts your mobile operator and convinces them that they are you after getting hold of your personal data.

Once your phone number is on a new SIM all your incoming calls and texts will be sent to the criminals.

When fraudsters gain control of a mobile number they can intercept text messages from banks containing security codes and then proceed to steal your money.

According to Action Fraud, criminals using SIM swaps steal around £4,000 on average.

Mark White, chief executive of fraud prevention service Reassura, says SIM swap fraud is one of the most dangerous frauds but people generally know very little about it.

He says: “We rarely think about the SIM card inside the phone except when we get a new one. Our mobile phones are becoming the keys that unlock our online kingdoms and that's why SIM scams are so scary.

"The SIM is the access point to taking over someone’s phone number and once they do that, they can gain access to all their online accounts."

How SIM swap fraud works

SIM swap fraud occurs when criminals convince mobile providers to switch your number to a new phone.

By getting control of your phone fraudsters can get around the two-step authentication process banks use.

Before a mobile phone network cancels and reissues a SIM, it will ask a number of security questions about the account holder.

Experts believe criminals are getting this information on victims from social media websites or by using malware. These details are then sold on the dark web.

Once the fraudsters get hold of this information, they then use it to convince mobile companies they are the victim when requesting the swap.

They then use authorisation codes sent to that phone to access bank accounts and credit cards. They can even take out credit in the victim's name.

How to tell if you have been SIM-swapped

One of the first signs that your have been a victim of a SIM swap is a sudden change in service. If you have experienced an extended loss of signal, control may have been switched to a new device.

If this happens contact you network provider to check what the issue is as it can block the swap before it happens.

A flood of nuisance calls or messages asking you to turn your phone off could be scammers trying to make the swap easier. So whatever you do, don’t switch your phone off.

How to protect yourself

Set up a SIM PIN – You can prevent unauthorised use of your SIM by setting up another layer of protection with a SIM PIN. This will vary depending on your mobile and network.

Downloads – Only download applications or make in-app purchases from websites and stores that are approved.

Opening links – Always be careful of opening links on your phone and delete anything suspicious. Hackers can install malware on your phone which can be used to steal information and personal data.

Phishing - Fraudsters will often use phishing texts and mails to get hold of your personal information, so make sure you don’t give out any of your personal details or passwords.

Get up-to-date virus software – Having the latest anti-virus software will give you an added layer of protection from the fraudsters and protect you from malware.

Social media – Lots of people put personal information on social media such favourite bands, pets even dates of birth. This information can be used by fraudsters to hack accounts, so make sure you are careful what you put out there.


SIM swap fraud

Surely mobile providers should send a confirmation text to the existing SIM to avoid this, or at least an alert giving 24 hours for you to contact them if you haven't requested the swap?!? If I remember right, I believe they brought in a law in Spain that mobile providers can only issue replacement SIMs by post to your existing registered address because of a similar fraud which involved requesting a second SIM for an existing phone rather than switching to a new phone as in this article.

SIM swap fraud

I assume there’s a way these fraudsters persuade Providers to send a placement SIM to a different address?? Surely Providers shouldn’t be doing this.
I see the Providers as being 100% responsible for any losses etc. It’s them that’s being tricked, not the user.

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