The FBI is warning consumers about a tricky scam where crooks steal your phone number and then empty your bank account. It’s called a SIM swapping scam.
A SIM is the Subscriber Identity Module that gives your cell phone its unique number. Victims lost $68 million to these crooks in 2021. Here’s how it works:
According to the FBI, “SIM swapping is a malicious technique where criminal actors target mobile carriers to gain access to victims’ bank accounts, virtual currency accounts, and other sensitive information. Criminal actors primarily conduct SIM swap schemes using social engineering, insider threat, or phishing techniques. Social engineering involves a criminal actor impersonating a victim and tricking the mobile carrier into switching the victim’s mobile number to a SIM card in the criminal’s possession. Criminal actors using insider threat to conduct SIM swap schemes pay off a mobile carrier employee to switch a victim’s mobile number to a SIM card in the criminal’s possession. Criminal actors often use phishing techniques to deceive employees into downloading malware used to hack mobile carrier systems that carry out SIM swaps.”
Once the swap is finished, the crooks receive your calls, texts, and access to other private data. This also allows them to send ‘forgot password’ requests and bypass your two-factor authentication.
The FBI says you should never provide your phone account information over the phone to people who claim to be from your phone provider or another company you have an account with. Call the company directly to check to see if they need to contact you. And be very careful about posting your phone number or other personal information online.