Scammers keep getting bolder with their extortion methods. One scam in particular that's plaguing more and more everyday folks is something called SIM Swapping.
In its simplest terms, a SIM swap gives scammers access to your mobile device so they can take over your financial accounts.
Scammers accomplish a SIM swap by first collecting your personal data that's been stolen through data breaches, phishing attacks, social media accounts, and public records that (believe it or not) are made very easily available through the internet. Then once they have your personal data, they contact your mobile carrier and impersonate you. At which point they come up with some sort of bogus story to convince your cellular company that "you" need a new replacement SIM card.***
According to AARP, "Once your SIM has been hijacked, calls, texts and other data that are supposed to go to you are diverted to the imposter’s device. This may include texts with the one-time-use multi-factor authentication code that is supposed to provide you with an extra layer of security beyond a passcode. Instead, it may unlock the door for a thief to change or access your email addresses, social media profiles, financial records and bank accounts."
***What is a SIM card? Some SIM cards are those little removable computer chips held inside your phone. Then there are new eSIM cards embedded into your phone's hardware. Both types of SIM cards store all your mobile account data.***
Here's a helpful illustration further explaining how the SIM swap scam works...
How to Protect Yourself From a SIM Swap
Here are a few ideas to help reduce the chances that you'll be a victim of SIM swapping:
- DO NOT reply to random unknown calls, emails, or texts requesting your personal data.
- Select a strong PIN for your mobile account. So best to avoid using your address, birthdates, or your Social Security number because this data often shows up in a data breach.
- Utilize fingerprint scanning or facial recognition to protect your device.
- DO NOT store your passwords or account numbers on your device.
- Protect your SIM by creating an additional PIN that you must enter each time you restart your phone or remove a SIM card (you can accomplish this in Settings on your iPhone or Android device).
- If possible, set your social media account profiles to private or only viewable by friends. Or at least remove data like your birthdate and email address.
- Immediately report suspicious activity to your mobile provider and any financial institution you work with. Then also check with your mobile provider and financial institutions to see if username or passwords have been altered in anyway.
Unfortunately, SIM swapping is proving a very common way to get scammed in today's world, and it can happen to just about anyone. So always stay vigilant, and consider implementing the above ideas so you can do what you can now to protect yourself and your money.