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Protecting Yourself from SIM Swapping Scams

In today’s technology-driven society, people rely more and more on mobile devices to perform daily tasks. And while your mobile devices make your life that much more convenient, they also open you up to the possibility of fraud.

One of the newest scams involves what is known as SIM Swapping. This latest type of fraud affects access to your mobile phone and can have detrimental effects on your finances and personal information.

Protecting yourself begins with understanding SIM Swapping, how it works, and how to protect yourself and your personal data.

What is SIM Swapping?
Every smartphone has what is known as a SIM Card. SIM stands for Subscriber Identity Module and is a part of your mobile phone that stores all your identification information and connects your device to a mobile network.

SIM cards include data such as your user identity, location, phone number, network authorization data, personal security keys, contact lists, and any stored text messages. Your mobile carrier will transfer this SIM card to your new phone whenever you purchase a new device. Without it, you would be unable to make phone calls, send or receive text messages, or even connect to the internet.

SIM swapping scams happen when fraudsters contact your mobile phone carrier impersonating you to transfer your SIM information to another device not authorized by you. By doing this, the scammers can access your phone and directly connect to your phone’s information and apps, including any financial account information, social media profiles, or other accounts stored on your device.

How Does SIM Swapping Work?
SIM swapping begins with scammers gaining access to some of your personal information, such as your email, phone number, and home address. Unfortunately, most of this information can easily be found through basic online research nowadays.

They then contact your mobile carrier, impersonate you using this information, and ask to transfer your SIM information to a new phone. Once this happens, they then have access to all your data. Since they now have access to your email, too, they will reset your email password and then begin the process of changing your user identifications and passwords for your other apps. Victims of this type of scam often have their financial accounts accessed without knowing.

What are the Signs of SIM Swapping Fraud?
While SIM swapping can happen very quickly, there are key signs that you may be a victim of this type of fraud. These include:

  • No Phone Service: If your SIM card swaps to another user, you will no longer be able to make or receive phone calls or texts.
  • Unable to Access Your Financial Accounts: If you cannot log into your financial or credit card accounts, this may signify a takeover.
  • Unable to Log into Social Media Accounts: If you aren’t able to log into your social media accounts or notice unusual activity, this may be a red flag.
  • New Device: If you contact your carrier and they tell you that your information moved over to a new device, this is a sure sign you’ve been a victim of this type of scam.

How Do I Protect Myself?
Due to the rise in popularity of SIM swapping scams, most larger phone carriers have started implementing policies that make this type of fraud more difficult to complete. However, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself and your information.

  • Protect Your Phone & SIM Card
    One of the first steps is ensuring your phone and SIM card are protected. You can do this by requiring a PIN, fingerprint scan, or facial recognition to use your device.
  • Avoid Giving Out Personal Information
    These scams begin with the fraudster obtaining personal information about you to transfer the SIM card. So, you should avoid sharing any personal information online that can be easily accessed. Also, you should never give out any personal information via email, text, or through a phone call that you did not initiate. Remember, the credit union will NEVER ask you for personal or account information online, via text, or over the phone unless you initiate the conversation. Another habit to get into is to clear your email inboxes regularly of sensitive information, such as bills, that can provide access to your financial accounts if a scam occurs.
  • Lock Your Phone with Your Service Provider
    To prevent scammers from accessing your SIM, you can use features like port freeze or number lock offered by many service providers. These tools prevent your phone number from being ported or transferred to another device.
  • Use Strong Passwords & Security Questions
    To protect your SIM from scammers, use passwords and security questions that are difficult to guess. Strong passwords should have at least 12 characters and a combination of letters, numbers, and special symbols.
  • Use Multi-Factor Authentication
    You may consider looking into a multi-factor authentication app as an additional layer of security. These apps require the user to provide two or more verification factors to gain access to their phone. So, instead of just a password, you’ll be required to do an additional step like a enter a PIN or fingerprint verification.

We’re Here to Help!
If you think you have been a victim of a SIM swapping scam, it’s important to act immediately. Contact your mobile service provider, financial institutions, and credit card companies if you notice any suspicious activity connected to your phone number.

If you’re a victim, you can file an Identity Theft Report with the Federal Trade Commission. It’s also wise to file a police report and place a fraud alert on your credit reports if your financial accounts were accessed. 

If you believe you were a victim of a SIM swapping scam or another type of fraud, we’re here to help. Please stop by the Credit Union or call 410-687-5240 to notify a team member.

Each individual’s financial situation is unique and readers are encouraged to contact the Credit Union when seeking financial advice on the products and services discussed. This article is for educational purposes only; the authors assume no legal responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the contents.