SIM swap and port-out fraud can have dire consequences, but learning to spot the signs and take preventative action can help.
The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently proposed a set of new rules to tackle the threat of SIM swapping and port-out, reigniting the debate around two well-known smartphone frauds that have caused millions of dollars in damage and ruined many lives. SIM swapping occurs when a malicious actor convinces an operator to transfer cellular service from a victim’s phone to a phone the scammer has in their possession. Port-out fraud, on the other hand, occurs when a fraudster poses as a victim and has cellular service transferred from the original operator to a new operator of their choice.
In an age where a ton of services are tied to mobile numbers, the potential for account takeovers, data theft and extortion is extremely high. These incidents are not confined to a single region of the globe either. In the past, fraudsters have used a SIM swap hack to trick thousands of users into asking them for bogus carrier charges. Cryptocurrency investors have also fallen victim to such extortion ransomware attacks after their data has been stolen. On several occasions, law enforcement authorities have dismantled networks involved in hijacking celebrity phones with millions of dollars at stake. With low levels of identity verification requirements in many of these cases , users remain vulnerable.
Currently, it is primarily up to the user to take the necessary measures to avoid being targeted by SIM swap and port-out fraud. Before this is possible, however, users must be able to read the signs of such an ongoing attack, and the FCC has already provided some advice So. For example, if users suddenly are unable to text or make calls, they should immediately contact their service provider to investigate the problem. Another red flag is when users receive alerts that their SIM card has been activated or is in use on another device. Likewise, if the credentials for logging into services, like a bank account (assuming it has been linked to a mobile number) suddenly start to fail, this is a major telltale sign that something is wrong. .
Small steps help prevent scams
One of the most important steps that users can take is to avoid sharing their number on social media platforms and other chat rooms, as malicious parties are often hiding in these places to seek to retrieve this personal information. . Another step is to implement a strong password protection system to log into a cellular service account. If possible, always enable two-factor authentication for an additional level of security. Some services now accept biometric data such as fingerprints for authentication instead of a PIN code or text verification. If that’s an option, it’s worth using biometric verification.
Another crucial step is to check any emails, texts or calls that ask for account details. Operators and telecommunications service providers generally do not ask for personal information and account details, which may include credentials and payment details from emails, passwords or related codes sent via SMS. . Users should always check details with their service provider before responding to such requests. For those who are concerned about the security aspect, a great solution is to use a service like Google Authenticator. Using multi-factor authentication, or even a physical security key, can be one of the most reliable methods to avoid SIM swapping and porting fraud.
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