A SIM swap scam occurs when thieves have gained enough of your personal information to convince a wireless provider to transfer your phone number to a new SIM card that is in their control. Once they have your phone number, they will try to access your accounts, including email, banking and even social media, and reset your passwords. Since they are in control of your phone number, these thieves can bypass two-factor authentication (2FA) by having companies send the 2FA verification codes via SMS to the phone number now in their possession. They can take over your accounts with you no longer able to gain access.
How can you protect yourself?
The first step in protecting your phone number from a SIM swap scam is by putting a PIN or passcode on your account. Every major U.S. carrier offers this option, so make sure to add that additional protection.
Another option is contacting your carrier and requesting a requirement that your SIM not be changed unless done so in person at a physical store with a form of identification presented.
You also can use an authentication app such a Google Authenticator or Authy for 2FA. The app links directly to your physical phone rather than your phone number, so a SIM swap scammer isn’t able to receive the verification codes needed to take over your accounts.
What if you think you’re at risk?
One of the first signs that you’ve become a victim of a SIM swap scam is losing access to your phone number. If you feel you might be the victim or a potential victim of a SIM swap scam, make sure to take precautions. These precautions can include:
- Resetting your passwords
- Filing a police report with local authorities
- Filling out a report with the Federal Trade Commission
- Placing a credit freeze or credit lock with all three credit reporting bureaus
- Signing up for credit and identity theft protection.
Unfortunately, SIM swap scams are on the rise. In fact, more than 800 people in the United States have had more than $50 million stolen from them in SIM swap scams since 2018. With this increasing threat, make sure you are protected.