SIM Swapping Requires Zero Skill
In 2019, scammers swapped a well-known technology journalist’s T-Mobile SIM and locked him out of his Google and Twitter accounts.[*] The hackers then charged his bank with a $25,000 Bitcoin purchase.
SIM swaps are attacks in which scammers move your phone number from a SIM card in your possession to another card that they control. This type of fraud is easy to execute and does not require any code, but it has devastating effects on victims' lives.
The adjusted losses from 1,611 SIM swapping complaints in 2021 amounted to over $68 million, according to the FBI.[*]
A SIM card swap is a gateway fraud; scammers can easily hijack your phone number — and then steal your identity. Being prepared is probably the best way to defend yourself.
What Is SIM Swapping?
SIM swapping, or SIM hijacking, occurs when attackers take control of your mobile number. They trick your cell phone provider into transferring your number to their mobile device.
The attacker then uses your phone number to access other online accounts that belong to you. Using text messages, they “recover” access to accounts (like your Gmail) in concert with other information that they have gathered about you from phishing emails, SMS two-factor authentication (2FA), or leaked data from the Dark Web.
In turn, they can easily gain access to:
- Bank accounts
- Social media accounts
- Cryptocurrency exchange accounts
Port-out fraud is often confused with SIM swapping, but they are two different things
- Porting fraud occurs when a scammer transfers your number to another service provider.
- SIM swaps refer to transferring your account to a scammer's new SIM card.
There are instances in which you may have a legitimate reason to request a duplicate SIM. If your existing SIM chip malfunctions or if you somehow misplaced the SIM, your carrier’s support team can map your phone number to a new card’s Integrated Circuit Card Identifier (ICCID).
If you’re switching to a new carrier but are still in the same geographic area, simple port-outs can be completed in a day.