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There are several ways the process can be referred to, such as SIM splitting and port-out scamming, but they all mean the same thing. SIM swapping is a process that allows scammers to access private information and even financial accounts through a person’s phone number. Phone numbers are used to activate a SIM card, which stores the passwords and data of the individual using it. Phone numbers are also used in a lot of two-factor authentication processes for account security. Anyone who has a social media account has likely experienced this. Sometimes, when someone logs in, the website will send a text to their phone with a special code to ensure that it’s really them. It seems fairly secure, there’s only one person to every phone number, after all. But scammers still have a way to switch the SIM card associated with the phone number, allowing them access to the individual’s information. Losing access to your social media or having it hacked would be the least of your worries should this happen. The hacker would have control over everything associated with that number, including financial information.
This is certainly concerning. Luckily, understanding how it works can help to make sure you stay protected. SIM cards are used to store data in what are known as GSM phones – Global System for Mobile. SIM cards are needed in order for a GSM phone to use a mobile network. The phone number for a person is also attached to the SIM card. So, with someone’s phone number, cybercriminals could do a lot of damage. Once they have someone’s phone number, the hackers can impersonate the real owner and ask for a new SIM card, which would be sent to them rather than the correct person. Once they have the new SIM card, all the information from the original is transferred over, including text messages. This is where they access the login codes. With all of this information, they can create a new bank account in the individual’s name instead of their own and transfer the money over, thus stealing it for themselves. Sometimes, scams like these can be seen when someone’s social media gets hacked. It doesn’t seem like a big deal at first, but it often involves SIM swapping in order to gain access to the account through the phone number. If your social media gets hacked, there is a chance that other accounts of yours have gotten hacked as well.
The ideal situation, of course, is that you are able to protect yourself before something like that happens, rather than having to fix it afterwards. There are quite a few ways to do this, and here are some of the most effective. Keep an eye on any emails and messages you get, especially ones from numbers and addresses you don’t recognize. Scammers use phishing emails to try and get you to send them your information. Sometimes they use links or impersonate major companies to trick you. Don’t answer them or click on any links they send if you think something isn’t right. You should also use strong passwords that are unique to you. In addition, make sure to use separate passwords for each account that you have. If you can, add options for identity authentication that are not based on your phone number. For example, you could have messages sent to your email instead, or use an app to authenticate your identity through your physical phone rather than your phone number. One such app is Google Authenticator, which still provides two-factor authentication.
Another option for security is to make sure that you can get notifications from both your bank and mobile carriers. These days, both make it fairly easy and have it as a security measure that comes with the account, that way customers can keep track of their own habits and more easily catch fraud. Make sure to enable those notifications so that you can be notified immediately of fraudulent activity. Some places even call customers back to confirm their identity, especially in situations where money is involved.
The good thing is that there are a few signs you can look out for when it comes to your information getting stolen. One key sign is that you are no longer able to use your login credentials to access your accounts. Chances are, if your information was stolen, your passwords were changed so that the scammer now has sole access to your accounts. If this happens to you, especially with a bank account, call your bank immediately to fix it, along with your phone provider. Another sign is that you can no longer place texts or phone calls. If this happens, your SIM card may have been deactivated and you should contact your phone provider as soon as possible. The last and perhaps most obvious sign is if you get notified of activity that wasn’t you. For example, your phone provider may notify you that a new SIM card was activated with your phone number, but you haven’t done that recently. Again, should this happen, contact your phone provider immediately to make sure nothing else gets stolen.
SIM swapping is a situation that sounds scary when you hear about it and can be scary if it happens to you. But with protective measures in place and the knowledge of what to do should it occur, it is entirely possible to keep your information and your finances safe.