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What is SIM-Swapping Fraud  and How to Protect Yourself

What is SIM-swapping?

SIM-swapping is a genuine service which allows you to keep the same phone number but switch to a different SIM card or network provider. This is done by requesting a PAC code and it’s a very useful tool if your mobile phone gets lost or stolen, or you want to swap to a provider with a cheaper deal.

The problem is however that scammers are increasingly taking advantage of this in order to steal personal details and money from consumers.

What is SIM-swapping fraud?

SIM-swapping fraud occurs when a criminal impersonates you and makes contact with your network provider and asks to be given a PAC code in order to swap networks. Another method would be to say that their device has been lost or stolen and therefore they need a new SIM card.

The scammers are able to bypass security questions as they would have obtained personal details about you before attempting this scam. They commonly get these details from companies which have had a data breach, or by hacking into your email and/or social media accounts.

Once they have swapped your phone number, they can use it to cause all sorts of damage and, more importantly, to steal money. This is because they will now have access to all the functionalities that your phone number provides, including making and receiving phone calls and sending and receiving SMS messages.

What’s worse is that they can benefit from receiving two-factor authentication texts and one-time passcodes that your bank sends out when you perform an online banking transaction. This means they can log into your personal accounts and perform bank transfers without you being notified.

What are the warning signs of SIM-swapping fraud?

You get a text message saying that your PAC code has been sent but you didn’t request one. A lot of people may ignore this message thinking it’s just a mistake and not important, but this is a clear warning sign that somebody may be trying to defraud you. If you get this message then contact your network provider immediately.

If a criminal has successfully pulled off a SIM-swap scam, then your phone will suddenly lose signal and you won’t be able to make any calls or send any text messages. This is because your phone number doesn’t belong to your device anymore and it will now correspond to the criminal’s phone. Of course it’s possible to lose signal if you’re in a bad reception area, but you should be concerned if you don’t have signal for a long period of time and in areas where the reception is usually good.

How to protect yourself from SIM-swapping fraud

The first step to protecting yourself against SIM-swapping fraud is by limiting the amount of personal information you put online and on social media. Criminals are able to pull these scams off because of the data they are able to collect on their victims.

Keep an eye out for things like phishing emails, text messages and calls. This is another method that scammers use to try and obtain your personal information and online banking log-in details.

Make sure you have a different password or PIN number for every one of your online accounts – especially for any accounts that hold any personal or bank details. This will add another layer of protection as it’s another piece of information the scammer needs to get hold of. Having a different password for every account means, if they manage to get hold of one, it doesn’t mean that all of your accounts are compromised.

Two-factor authentication is another very important thing to set up on all accounts that offer it. However, to protect yourself from SIM-swap scams, you should use your email address instead of your phone number (or both if this is possible.) This way, if a fraudster hacks into one of your accounts that has 2FA enabled, you will still be notified even if they have your phone number.

What should you do if you have fallen victim to SIM-swapping fraud?

If you think you have become victim to a SIM-swap scam, the first thing you need to do is to contact your bank so they can freeze your accounts and prevent any(more) money from being stolen.

You then need to get in contact with your phone network provider and alert them of the fraud. You should also request for your phone number to be returned to your mobile device.

Finally, it’s very important that you report this, and any other, scam to Action Fraud UK so the fraud can be investigated. The more cases reported, the closer we become to stopping these criminals.


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