A Subscriber Identity Module, more commonly known as a SIM card, is an integrated circuit that stores information used to authenticate subscribers on mobile devices, such as a cell phone.  The SIM card is able to be transferred between different devices, and often is, when people update into a newer cell phone.  SIM Swapping is the name for the crime where someone convinces your phone carrier to transfer your SIM card to a phone controlled by the criminal.

As more and more financial transactions, such as online banking, are now done through cell phones, identity thieves with access to their victims’ SIM cards are increasingly becoming able to intercept security codes sent by text messages for online banking as part of dual factor authentication and thereby providing the identity thief with the opportunity to empty their victims’ bank accounts and cause other financial havoc.

Recently Henry Perez was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for using SIM swapping to take over the accounts of hundreds of cell phone users.  Once he had taken over the accounts, Perez purchased iPhones, iPads and AirPods worth more than $530,000 and charged them to his victims’ accounts.

TIPS

Perhaps the best thing you can do to  protect your SIM card from SIM swapping is to set up a PIN or password to be used for access to your mobile service provider account. This will help prevent a criminal from calling your carrier posing as you and convincing your mobile carrier to swap your SIM card to the criminal’s phone merely by providing personal identifying information or answering a security question.

AT&T will allow you to set up a passcode for your account that is different from the password that you use to log into your account online.   Without this passcode, AT&T will not swap your SIM card.   Here is a link with instructions as to how to set up the passcode. https://www.att.com/esupport/article.html#!/wireless/KM1051397?gsi=9bi24i

Verizon enables customers to set up a PIN or password to be used for purposes of authentication when they contact a call center.  Here is a link with information and instructions for setting up a PIN with Verizon.  https://www.verizonwireless.com/support/account-pin-faqs/

T-Mobile will allow you to set up a passcode that is different from the one you use to access your account online.  This new passcode is used when changes to your account are attempted to be made such as swapping a SIM card.  This code will not only protect you from criminals attempting to call T-Mobile and swap your SIM card, but will also prevent someone with a fake ID from making changes to your account at a T-Mobile store.  Here is a link to information and instructions for adding a new passcode to your account. https://www.t-mobile.com/customers/secure

Sprint customers can establish a PIN that must be provided when doing a SIM swap, in addition to merely answering a security question, the answer to which may be able to be learned by a clever identity thief.  Here is a link to information about adding a PIN to your Sprint account. https://www.sprint.com/en/support/solutions/account-and-billing/update-your-pin-and-security-questions-on-sprint-com.html

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