SIM Swap Scam Attacks

SIM swap scam attacks happen when criminals take advantage of weaknesses present in two-factor authentication (or 2FA) and then use your phone number to access accounts. By getting hold of your phone number through SIM swap attacks, criminals can then gain access to all sorts of personal information, such as bank accounts, social media platforms and other areas where you may use your phone number as a login detail or to authenticate an account. 

Once a SIM swap scam attack happens, the criminal will get in touch with your mobile phone provider and enable them to activate a SIM card which only they have access to. Once this swap happens, the criminal will have complete control over your phone number and anyone who tries to get in touch with you will then get in contact with their SIM, as opposed to your device.

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What Is A SIM?

A SIM (or subscriber identity module) is a small card with a chip which is inserted into a mobile device and activates calls, texts and data services. Each SIM card has its own unique identifiers which are associated with a singular account and, because of these distinctive details, removing a SIM card from one mobile device and putting it into another will then transfer the card services to the new device. Phone companies can also transfer these details onto a new SIM card if, for example, the original is lost. As a result of this, mobile devices are highly vulnerable to SIM swap scam attacks.

How Do SIM Swap Attacks Work?

SIM swap scams happen when criminals gain control of your mobile device by tricking your provider into connecting your phone number to a SIM which is within their possession. To steal your phone number, the criminals will gather as much information as they can to deceive and manipulate their victims. 

They will first contact the mobile phone provider of their victim and impersonate them, claiming to have lost or damaged “their” SIM card. Then, they will ask the provider to activate a new SIM card in its place, giving them possession of the new SIM. This then connects the victim’s number and details with the fraudster’s SIM card. Once the mobile provider completes the request, all calls and messages will be directed to the criminal’s SIM which they can then use to bypass 2-factor authentication methods and access accounts and platforms.

What Do Scammers Gain From SIM Swap Attacks?

Once the SIM swap is complete, criminals will be able to enter your username and password when logging into websites, such as your bank, and then request verification by text or call, also known as two-factor authentication. As they now have control over your number, the criminal will then receive the authentication code and use this to access online accounts. 

SIM swap attacks, which can also be referred to as “simjacking” or “simcard hacking”, are a form of identity theft which affects many online platforms. The scammer can then gain access to things such as text messages, emails, social media platforms and contact lists. The main driving force behind SIM swap attacks is for the attacker to secure monetary gain, with them then being able to gain access to credit card information, bank account credentials and cryptocurrency wallets. 

In some cases, SIM swap attackers may even carry out an attack with other aims. They may wish to exploit things such as the victim’s social media accounts, sell their mobile phone data or other linked accounts on the black market, or try to extort the mobile owner into paying a set amount to regain access to their number.

How Do I Know If I've Been The Victim Of A SIM Swap Attack?

It’s important to recognise the warning signs of SIM swap attacks as doing so means that should you fall victim, you can quickly take action to mitigate the effects of the scam, before it is too late and too much damage is caused. Some of the most common signs of a SIM swap attack include: 

Inability To Make Calls or Send Texts

If you find that you are no longer able to make calls, texts or access mobile data, then this is one of the earliest signs of a SIM swap attack and that there is something wrong with your network connection. It might simply be an issue with your service provider, or it could be that a criminal has initiated a SIM swap attack and has transferred your mobile service to themselves.

Notifications Of Activity Elsewhere

As SIM swap attacks are largely conducted to bypass 2FA, if your details have been used in a SIM Swap, then once the attacker begins to use these to access other accounts or platforms, you will usually be notified about this through other means.

Unauthorized Transactions

A big goal for many SIM swap scammers, like with a lot of crypto and trading scams, is to gain access to victim’s bank accounts and empty them. If you begin noticing or getting notifications of transactions that you didn’t make, then this could be the result of SIM swapping. It’s important that, if you do notice this, you contact us immediately, as well as your bank so that we can take those important first steps in recovering your lost funds.

Contact Us Today

With SIM swap attacks, it’s important that, if you notice you have been a victim of the scam, you get in touch with us as soon as possible so that we can start those all-important first steps of recovery. 

There are some steps you can take to prevent SIM swap attacks. You can set up some simple security measures, such as setting up pins on your accounts and implementing harder security questions, with answers that a hacker might not know. You should also look to adopt smarter online habits, such as being aware of phishing scams, and limiting how many accounts you link with your phone number. Being vigilant with your online activity is also important so that you can spot anything that is out of the ordinary.

SIM swap scams are on the rise and are considered a significant online risk. Last year, the FBI launched a warning about SIM swap scams and announced that, in 2022, around $68 million was estimated to have been lost through SIM swap scams.

Yes, SIM swap attacks are a crime. It is a form of cybercrime which involves identity fraud, conspiracy and theft and is taken very seriously. If a person is found guilty, then it carries severe penalties and can result in prison time. This is why if you believe you have been the victim of a SIM swap attack, you must get in touch with us and the relevant authorities so that your case can be investigated further.

A SIM swap attack will last for as long as it goes undetected, or when the scammer shuts down the SIM once they have gotten what it is they are after to avoid getting caught. In most cases we see, the scammer will shut the SIM card down when they have made a big purchase or transfer large funds from your account to a new location.