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SIM swap scam: Understanding and Preventing


Dominic David

Sep 1, 2023 | 9 min read
  • Privacy




SIM swap scam is a fraudulent activity that uses your mobile SIM card to gain control over your phone number, allowing criminals to steal your personal information and assets. This type of scam has caused millions of dollars in losses globally and is becoming increasingly common. This article will introduce the principles, signs, risks, and prevention methods of SIM swap scam.




What is SIM swap scam?

How does SIM swap scam work?

Signs of SIM swap scam

Risks of SIM swap scam

Prevention methods for SIM swap scam


What is SIM swap scam?


SIM swap scam (also known as port-out scam, SIM splitting, smishing, and simjacking) is a fraudulent activity that leverages the number transfer feature provided by mobile operators to transfer your phone number to a SIM card controlled by criminals. With the control of your phone number, they can intercept your messages and calls, bypass certain accounts that rely on SMS or call-based two-factor authentication, such as your bank account or social media accounts, and reset your passwords or directly transfer your money.


How does SIM swap scam work?


SIM swap scam typically requires criminals to first obtain your personal information , such as your name, address, date of birth, mother's maiden name, pet's name, which can be acquired through phishing emails, hacking, social engineering, or other channels. With this information, criminals can impersonate you and contact your mobile operator , requesting them to transfer your phone number to the SIM card they provide . They may fabricate reasons, such as claiming that you have lost your phone or want to switch to a new one. In some countries, such as India and Nigeria, criminals also need to persuade you to press 1 to approve the SIM card transfer. In many cases, the SIM card transfer is directly performed by corrupt telecommunications company employees.

Once the SIM card transfer is successful, your phone will lose network connectivity , and criminals will receive all the messages and calls meant for you. This allows them to intercept any one-time passwords or verification codes sent to you via SMS or call and use them to log into your various accounts . As many services allow password resets through mobile number recovery, this scam enables criminals to access any account associated with the hijacked number . This may result in direct money transfers from your bank account , extortion, or selling your account on the black market to identity thieves.


Signs of SIM swap scam


If you experience any of the following situations, you may have become a victim of SIM swap scam:

① Transfer request

You receive an SMS or call from your mobile operator or other service provider, asking you to confirm or approve a transfer request, but you did not initiate this request.

② Transfer completion

You receive an SMS or call from your mobile operator or other service provider, notifying you that a transfer request has been successfully completed, but you did not initiate this request.

③ Unusable SIM card

You suddenly find that you cannot make calls or send messages, or your phone shows no signal or no service.

④ Unknown operations

You receive some SMS or calls from your bank or other accounts, informing you that successful logins, password changes, transfers, or other operations have occurred, but you did not perform these actions.

⑤ Unable to log in

You find that you cannot log into your bank or other accounts, your password has been changed, or your account has been locked.


Risks of SIM swap scam


If you become a victim of SIM swap scam, you may face the following risks:

① Loss of control

You may lose control over your phone and bank accounts, making it impossible to use them for normal communication and transactions.

② Financial loss

You may suffer financial losses, such as money being transferred out, credit card fraud, or cryptocurrency theft.

③ Identity theft

You may become a victim of identity theft, such as having your personal information used to open new accounts or having your social media accounts used to publish malicious content or your email accounts used to send spam or phishing emails.

④ Damage to reputation

Your reputation may be damaged, such as your name and photos being used to defraud others or your contacts being harassed or threatened, or your privacy being exposed or extorted.


Prevention methods for SIM swap scam


To prevent becoming a victim of SIM swap scam, you can take the following precautions:

① Protect personal information

Safeguard your personal information, avoid disclosing excessive details on social media, and be cautious of phishing emails or calls. Do not enter sensitive data on insecure websites.

② Strong passwords and security questions

Set strong passwords and security questions, and regularly change them. Do not use the same password or security question for different accounts. Avoid using easily guessable passwords or security questions, such as birthdays, names, pet names, etc.

③ Use multi-factor authentication

Enable multi-factor authentication, and try to avoid using SMS or call as the second factor. Use more secure methods, such as fingerprints, facial recognition, dynamic password generators, or email.

④ Monitor phone and bank account status

Monitor the status of your phone and bank accounts. If you notice any unusual situations, such as receiving strange messages or calls, loss of signal on your phone, or inability to log into your accounts, immediately contact your mobile operator and bank, and report to the authorities.

⑤ Use MetroVPN

Use a reliable VPN service to protect your network connection. A VPN can encrypt your data traffic, preventing hackers from eavesdropping or tampering. MetroVPN is an excellent VPN software that allows you to securely access the internet on public Wi-Fi and access any websites and applications. MetroVPN also provides 24/7 online customer support and a 30-day money-back guarantee.


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