No one is safe from Sim-Swap fraud. According to a study by Princeton University, four out of five SIM-Swap fraud attempts are successful. Sim-Swap continues to be challenging to detect and prevent as fraudsters adapt new attack techniques.
However, this does not mean there are no measures in place to protect yourself against fraud. This post will discuss everything you need to know to ensure you don’t fall victim to Sim-Swap fraud.
What Is Sim-Swap Fraud?
Mobile phones have become increasingly vital to the banking and financial sectors. They are offering users easy and secure access to sensitive accounts.
But the same benefits can be used against you to provide fraudsters with easy access to your financial accounts through your cell phone. This type of fraud is commonly known as Sim-Swap Fraud.
Sim-Swap fraud is also known as SIM jacking or SIM splitting. It is illegal when a fraudster tricks a mobile network provider into acquiring your mobile phone’s identity.
By doing this, the fraudster will receive all texts and calls meant for you. Even the one-time authentication security codes that give a fraudster access to your personal accounts.
How Does Sim-Swap Fraud Work?
To first understand how Sim-Swap fraud works, you need to know some basics about the SIM card. SIM is an acronym for Subscriber Identity Module. The card is for storing user data in Global Systems for Mobile (GSM) phones.
If you have no SIM card, the GSM phone will not be able to use a mobile network. The SIM card is identified through a unique number which is a valuable asset for Sim-Swap fraudsters.
The fraudster starts by collecting any data they can find about you so they can get your number.
The amount of data they collect determines how aggressive their social engineering is going to get. The scammers will then call your mobile provider. While impersonating you, they claim to have damaged or lost their (your) SIM card.
Once the mobile network provider falls for their social engineering schemes. They request them to activate a new SIM card that the fraudster already possess. They can also claim that they have problems connecting the SIM card to a new phone and require help with the process.
The fraudster easily bypasses the security questions you had set by using data collected in the first stage. Data can come from social media research, malware, dark web, or phishing emails.
After gaining access to your cell phone, the fraudster communicates with the financial institutions easily.
They can receive authentication codes, or password resets sent to the phone through text or voice call. The fraudster creates a second account under your name to get the money while avoiding the robust security checks.
Massive transfers between accounts under the same owner will not raise any suspicions.
Signs that you may be a victim of Sim-Swap Fraud
The main reason for Sim-Swap fraud is to gain access to at least one of your financial accounts. According to the Princeton University report, fraudster attempts are highly successful.
This means if a fraudster sets their eyes on you as a target, not much can be done.
However, you should always check for the following warning signs indicating you are under a Sim-Swap fraud attack. If you observe any of the signs. You should contact your mobile network provider immediately to avoid further losses.
- Unable to place calls or texts: The first sign that you might be under attack is. If you are placing calls or text messages and they are not going through. It can mean that the fraudster has deactivated your SIM and are already using your phone number.
- Activity identified elsewhere: If you receive a notification from your mobile network provider that your SIM card or phone number has been activated. You should contact the provider immediately to block any potential scam.
- Unable to access accounts: When you login into your financial accounts and your logins credentials no longer work. You are likely very deep in the swap fraud. If you notice this, contact your bank or other financial organisations immediately.
Why is Sim-Swap Fraud So Dangerous?
The only purpose driving a Sim-Swap fraud scam is to get a victim’s mobile identity. The majority of fraudsters are aware that the majority of people nowadays use their phones for authentication to sensitive accounts.
Once a fraudster has access to your mobile identity, they can blackmail you with personal messages from your social media accounts. They could also post abusive messages and statuses that can have significant reputational damage to the victim.
However, fraudsters are primarily after money. They could use your information to take out mortgages and loans under your name, leaving you with massive amounts of unexplainable debt in almost all your accounts.
Finally, the fraudsters can wreak unseen havoc on your personal and digital lives. They can clean out your entire bank account and max your credit cards. In the process, they damage your credit score and standing with most financial institutions.
How to Avoid Sim-Swap Fraud
The rising number of sophisticated and undetectable cyber-attacks demand a new all-inclusive approach to cyber security. The most common attacks in the United Kingdom are phishing attacks followed by impersonation, with more victims claiming they were not aware of the attack.
In the case of Sim-Swap fraud, by the time most victims notice, they don’t have access. It means that the card has successfully been transferred to the fraudster. The best offence against the Sim-Swap fraud scam is defence.
Here are some ways to protect yourself against Sim-Swap fraud.
- Regulate Online Behaviour
It is now almost a requirement to have some cybersecurity skills when browsing online. You should beware of phishing attacks from emails or other forms of attacks. The attacks focus on making you download malware or give out account credentials.
Before downloading or even opening a suspicious email, check your account’s official home website page for any significant updates or promotions regarding the email you received.
You can even contact the institution through its social media handles if you wish to talk to a representative.
- Boost Account Security
Strong passwords are impossible to crack with standard computers. This is why most fraudsters prefer to use social engineering to collect data. Suppose a GPU processor attempts 10.3 billion hashes per second.
It would take approximately 526 years to crack a strong password.
By this logic, the more characters you add to your password, the harder it will be to crack. It would also help if you upgraded all your account’s passwords to include different characters.
Consider also upgrading your security questions and answers to something that is not that common.
- Additional PIN Codes
You can request your mobile network provider to set a separate PIN code or password for communication for an additional layer of security. The PIN should have at least six digits, and it is effective against another form of fraud known as the port out fraud.
- Bank Alerts
Many banks and financial institutions now use services such as Verify from TMT Analysis to alert them to Sim-Swap activity. These alerts are highly effective in stopping an ongoing Sim-Swap fraud scam.
If there is irregular SIM activity, the bank sends you an alert through an alternate communication method. Banks can also add extra checks in the event there has been a SIM card re-issue.
The checks can include:
Behavioural Analysis Technology: Financial institutions such as banks use behavioural analysis technology to analyse customer behaviour. The technology depends on KYC data and AI algorithms to discover irregular patterns in SIM card activity. When a financial institution is alerted to a Sim-Swap the technology sends out a warning against sending SMS passwords or codes.
Call-backs: Some financial institutions go the extra mile. When they are alerted to irregular activity, the organisation calls the client to confirm they are who they claim to be.
Query platforms such as Live from TMT Analysis: This type of platform identifies the current network of a mobile number within 5ms. The platform has access to the entire Number Portability database, ensuring alerts are generated if there are any changes.
How TMT Analysis can protect you from the dangers of Sim-Swap.
Using our real time telco data, together with our live connections to mobile operators globally, TMT Analysis delivers a dynamic and protected consumer buying and online experience.
Our Mobile Number Intelligence API’s alerts our customers when a Sim-Swap, Call Divert or Port-Out is identified on a mobile device, raising awareness to possible fraudulent activity.
Contact us today to talk about how we can help you in the fight against Sim-Swap fraud.