SIM Swapping can cost you thousands if you’re not careful

SIM Swapping can cost you thousands if you're not careful

Freelance British food writer Jack Monroe recently made news when she found out that someone stole the phone number to her smartphone. They were then able to transfer the number to another phone where they had access to some of her financial information and were able to steal £5,000 from her personal account. That amount equates to close to $6,300 in the U.S. This is a trick known as SIM_Swapping or SIM-Jacking named after the SIM cards in most smartphones that contain your calling information including your phone number. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do to protect yourself against the attack.

SIM Swapping works when the victim is targeted by someone with knowledge of how the attack works. First, they get your name, address, and date of birth, then they contact your cell phone carrier to try and convince them that they are you. If the attacker is successful, he can get the carrier to switch your number to their phone. The attacker can then receive all your calls, texts, emails and the like. That way they can receive the two-factor authentication texts that would allow them to access any of your sensitive online accounts including banking.

While most victims of SIM Swapping don’t notice the attack until it’s too late, there are some steps you can take to try to protect yourself although nothing is a guarantee of preventing such an attack. You can instruct your cell phone carrier to require a PIN number if anyone calls to try and have any portion of your service changed. As with most PINs, don’t make it something obvious that an attacker can guess like your birthdate. You can also sign up for a Google Voice number which is much more secure and tougher to attack than a traditional cell phone number but work just like a traditional phone number and they are also free to get.