Imagine that one day you pick up your cellphone and your service has been turned off. You can’t access the Internet, make a call or send a text. When you call the cellphone provider, the representative tells you that you requested the number be transferred to a new phone.
In the time that it takes you to get the situation sorted out, the cyber crook that took transferred your number has already emptied your financial accounts, made online purchases with your credit cards and changed all your online passwords — essentially locking you out of your own life.
How Can They Do That?
Nowadays your cellphone is used for a lot more than just making phone calls. Many companies and websites recommend linking your cellphone number to your accounts as a way to verify your identity.
This security method, known as two-factor authentication (2FA), will send you an SMS (a text message) with a security code when you attempt to log-in or make security-related changes to your account (e.g. password change).
One the cyber crook gains control of your number, they exploit this security feature to gain access to email addresses, social media accounts, cryptocurrency wallets, cloud devices and financial accounts.
How They Get Your Number
The cyber crook generally transfers your phone number to a phone that they control using one of two methods:
1) They convince your cellphone provider that they are you using information they found online or through phishing; or
2) They bribe an employee with access to the system to transfer the number.
How to Protect Yourself
There are a some things you can do to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of SIM card hijacking:
1) Set up a PIN number for your SIM card
The procedure to do this varies by carrier, so you’ll need to check with them to see how to do it. Just don’t forget your PIN.
2) Use better two-party verification method
You can add Google Authenticator. It generates random six digit codes that you’ll have to enter to verify your identity on sites. Since it’s physically on your phone, it prevents people from accessing accounts using your cellphone number alone.
3) Remove your cellphone phone number from accounts
The fewer accounts you have linked to the number, the better for security reasons.
4) Be careful what information you share online
Scammers often do an Internet search to learn more about you so they can convince the minimum wage employee answering the phone at your cell phone company that they’re you. If you’re sharing every aspect of your life on social media right down to your pets’ names, you’re making it way too easy for them.
One more thing. You know those fun little questionnaires on Facebook where they ask you a list of questions like:
What year did you gradate high school?
What’s your favorite food?
What was your first car?
Avoid these things like the plague. If you’ve done them in the past, I recommend going through your timeline and deleting all of those posts.
Let’s Wrap This Up
Although this particular article doesn’t have anything to do with moving to Mexico, I thought some of our readers would benefit from the info so I did a quick post on it.
If you’re interested in learning more about this scam and how to better protect yourself, just do a quick Google search and you’ll find a ton of information on the topic.
Well, that’s it for today. Stay safe and healthy.