SIM swap fraud: How to protect your phone number from being stolen

SIM swapping is a severe development it is best to find out about. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

A recently published study showed simply how simple it’s for hackers and fraudsters to take management of your phone quantity, doubtlessly resulting in hundreds of {dollars} in fraud — that is your cash on the road. The follow of SIM swapping is changing into extra frequent, and regardless of carriers placing safeguards in place, it is scary how shortly the researchers had been capable of take over a phone quantity.

The SIM card inside your phone is a small plastic chip that tells your machine which mobile community to hook up with, and which phone quantity to make use of. We hardly ever ever take into consideration SIM playing cards, besides perhaps after we get a brand new phone. 

But here is the issue — hackers know that SIM playing cards are a reasonably easy accessibility level relating to taking up somebody’s phone quantity, and in flip, achieve entry to their on-line accounts. 


SIM playing cards appear so minor, do not they? 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

SIM swapping happens when somebody contacts your wi-fi provider and is ready to persuade the decision heart worker that they’re, in actual fact, you, utilizing your private knowledge. 

They do that by utilizing knowledge that is usually uncovered in hacks, knowledge breaches, or data you publicly share on social networks to trick the decision heart make use of into switching the SIM card linked to your phone quantity, and change it with a SIM card of their possession. 

Once your phone quantity is assigned to a brand new card, all your incoming calls and textual content messages will probably be routed to no matter phone the brand new SIM card is in. 

At first look, it appears considerably innocent. But when you think about that the majority of us have our phone numbers linked to our financial institution, e-mail and social media accounts, you shortly start to see how simple it might be for somebody with entry to your phone quantity can take over your complete on-line presence.

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Matthew Miller, a contributor to CNET sister web site, ZDNet, fell victim to a SIM swap scam last year, and he is nonetheless experiencing the repercussions of the fallout. Whoever took over Miller’s phone quantity gained entry to his Gmail account, and promptly modified his password, then erased each e-mail, deleted each file in his Google Drive account, and finally deleted his Gmail account altogether. 

Miller later found he was focused as a result of he had a Coinbase account and his checking account was linked to it. Miller’s phone obtained his Coinbase account’s two-factor authentication codes, so the hackers had been capable of log into his cryptocurrency buying and selling account and buy $25,00zero value of Bitcoin. Miller needed to name his financial institution and report the transaction as fraud. That’s on high of the immense vulnerability he felt.

One ill-gotten achieve for somebody who takes over your phone quantity is the moment entry to any two-factor authentication (2FA) codes you obtain by textual content messages, the pin that an establishment texts you to confirm that you’re who you say. That means if they’ve your password, they’re just some clicks away from logging into your e-mail, financial institution, or social media accounts. 

And if somebody positive factors entry to your e-mail account, they will change passwords and search by your e-mail archive to construct a listing of your complete on-line presence. Take the time to move away from SMS 2FA codes and use app-based codes as an alternative. Seriously. 


It takes just some minutes so as to add a crucial layer of safety to your account. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

What are you able to do to stop SIM swapping in your account?

You can lower your probabilities of somebody having access to and taking up your phone quantity by including a PIN code or password to your wi-fi account. T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and AT&T all supply the flexibility so as to add a PIN code. 

Some firms, like Sprint, require you to arrange a PIN code if you join service. However, in the event you’re uncertain you probably have a PIN code or must set one up, here is what that you must do for every of the 4 main US carriers. 

  • Sprint prospects: Log in to your account on then go to My Sprint > Profile and safety > Security data and replace the PIN or safety questions then click on Save.
  • AT&T subscribers: Go to your account profile, check in, after which click on Sign-in info. Select your wi-fi account you probably have a number of AT&T accounts, then go to Manage additional safety below the Wireless passcode part. Make your adjustments, then enter your password when prompted to avoid wasting.
  • T-Mobile customers: Set up a PIN or passcode the primary time you check in to your My T-Mobile account. Pick Text messages or Security query and observe the prompts. 
  • Verizon Wireless prospects: Call *611 and ask for a Port Freeze in your account, and go to this webpage to be taught extra about enabling Enhanced Authentication in your account.

If your phone loses service, name buyer care instantly. 

Juan Garzon/CNET

If you’ve gotten service by a distinct provider, name their customer support quantity to ask how one can defend your account. Most seemingly, you may be requested to create a PIN or passcode.

When making a PIN or passcode, remember the fact that if somebody has sufficient data to faux that they are truly you, utilizing a birthday, anniversary, or handle because the PIN code is not going to chop it. Instead, create a singular passcode on your provider after which retailer it in your password manager.

How are you aware in the event you’ve been affected? 

The best strategy to inform in case your SIM card is not lively is in the event you utterly lose service in your phone. You could obtain a textual content message stating the SIM card on your quantity has been modified, and to name customer support in the event you did not make the change. But together with your SIM card not lively, you will not have the ability to place a name out of your phone — not even to customer support (extra on this beneath). 

In brief, the quickest strategy to inform in the event you’ve been affected is that if your phone utterly loses service and you may’t ship or obtain textual content messages or phone calls. 


There are some steps you may take do you have to occur to be a sufferer of sim swap fraud. 

Juan Garzon / CNET

What do you have to do if you end up a sufferer of SIM swap fraud?

The fact is, if somebody needs entry to your phone quantity dangerous sufficient, they may do all they will to trick your provider’s assist consultant. What we have outlined above are best practices, however they are not foolproof. 

Researchers had been capable of pose as account holders who had forgotten their PIN or passcodes, oftentimes offering the latest numbers known as by the account holder. How do they know these numbers? They both tricked the account holder into calling a few numbers — and even scarier, phone numbers for incoming calls to the account they need to take over, that means the dangerous man merely wanted to name the goal’s phone quantity themselves. 

Once you notice you have misplaced service in your mobile machine, name your provider instantly and allow them to know you did not make the adjustments. The provider will enable you recuperate entry to your phone quantity. I am unable to emphasize this sufficient — don’t wait to name. The longer somebody has entry to your phone quantity, the extra injury they will do. 

Here are the customer support numbers for every main provider. Put your provider’s quantity in your phone as a contact:

  • Sprint: 1-888-211-4727
  • AT&T: 1-800-331-0500
  • T-Mobile: 1-800-937-8997
  • Verizon: 1-800-922-0204

Once somebody positive factors entry to your phone quantity, they’re going to have entry to most of your on-line accounts. 

James Martin/CNET

With your SIM card deactivated, you will not have the ability to name out of your phone, however a minimum of you may have the quantity useful to make use of on another person’s machine. 

You’ll additionally need to attain out to your financial institution(s), bank card firm, and double-check all your on-line accounts to guarantee that the perpetrator hasn’t modified your passwords or made any fraudulent transactions. If you discover transactions that are not yours, name your financial institution or go to a department instantly and clarify the scenario. 

Remember, irrespective of what number of PIN codes or passwords we add to our on-line accounts, there’s nonetheless an opportunity that somebody will discover a strategy to break in. But a minimum of by setting a passcode on your account, and understanding what to do if you end up a sufferer of SIM swapping, you are ready. 

Another crucial side of robust on-line safety is to make use of a password manager to create and retailer distinctive passwords in your behalf. Additionally, allow two-factor authentication on each account that gives it.

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Tarun Banerjee

Professional Web Designer & Developer,Expert in SEO & Digital Market, Founder of Tech Hunt.

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