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  • Writer's pictureBurton Kelso, Tech Expert

How to Protect Yourself From SIM Swap Scams

If you're like most people, your smartphone is your go-to device for paying your bills, posting to social media, and checking your email. Just imagine the size of the knot in your stomach that you would feel if your smartphone suddenly stops receiving calls or text messages. On top of that, you get a notification from your cellular provider that your SIM card has been activated on a new phone. SIM swap scams are a growing problem. Check out these quick and easy tips to help you identify a SIM card swap and how you can keep your smartphone safe.

SIM card scams, also known as SIM hijacking and SIM splitting are a form of smartphone account takeover fraud. To initiate an attack, criminals will scour the Internet to find information about you, searching for every tidbit of information you have shared on social media or other web sits. Your personal information can also be gathered from many of the known data breaches or leaks that have occurred over the years. They can also use phishing, SMShing, or vishing techniques to get your data. When the criminal gathers enough information, they will contact your mobile phone provider and trick the customer service rep into porting your telephone number to a SIM card owned by the criminal. The common cause criminals tell your provider's customer service rep is they lost the phone and they need to move the number to a new phone. When the process is complete, the hacker will now receive your calls and text messages.

One of the purposes of this attack is to gain access to one, or more, of your online accounts. The criminal behind the attack is also hoping your online accounts have been set up for two-factor authentication (2FA) which means they change the passwords on your social media and banking accounts which allow them to clean out your bank accounts, max out your credit cards, and download messages from your accounts and post negative messages via text and online which can harm your online reputation.

How to protect yourself

1. Keeping your cell phone number private. The fewer people know your number, the safer you can keep your mobile accounts. Consider using one of the many free calling apps such as WhatsApp or Google Voice to keep your number safe and secure.

Become a Cyber Liar. Limiting the personal information you share online. Never post your full name, address, phone number. Avoid is oversharing details from your personal life which can lead criminals from guessing the answers to the security questions you set up for your mobile account.

Always beware of Phishing Scams. Phishing is a popular way for cybercriminals to obtain your sensitive information. While many of the phishing emails are caught by your spam filters, you still need to educate yourself on how to spot a phishing scam.

Enable security measures with your mobile company. Most mobile companies offer options of additional authentication in the form of PIN codes, passcodes, and additional security questions. You need to check with your provider to learn how to enable such features.

SIM swap scams are a threat to everybody, there are ways to protect yourself. Follow the steps outlined above to help you lower your chances of falling victim to such an attack.

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