Beware the SIM swap. The FBI says the sophisticated scam that involves hackers getting access to first your cell phone and then your financial accounts is on the rise, Fox News reports. It starts with scammers getting someone's personal details, which can be done via phishing emails, phishing calls, or simply buying stolen information on the dark web. Then, they call the victim's wireless carrier impersonating the victim and claiming their SIM card, the computer chip inside the phone that contains a unique ID number, has been lost or stolen. They then ask for the victim's phone number to be transferred to a new SIM card—which, of course, is in the scammer's possession, not the victim's.
The scammer can then submit password reset or account recovery requests for the victim's accounts, and any calls or texts that come in to verify the requests will go to the scammer, not the victim. From there, the scammer can steal funds, sell access to the accounts to other people, or any number of things—even Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was once victimized by a SIM swap, and the scammer hacked into his Twitter account, CNBC reports. In 2020, losses to SIM swap scams were $12 million; last year, they jumped to $68 million.
The FBI says to avoid being scammed, don't give your mobile number account password or PIN info out to anyone, even a supposed representative, unless you have called the verified customer service line; use strong username/password protection and storage and multi-factor authentication methods; don't post personal information online; and change your passwords and notify your service provider immediately if you suspect you've been victimized. Lifehacker put out a piece in 2020 on how to tell if you've been victimized by a SIM swap. If you have, you can report the scam to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. (Read more FBI stories.)