e latest column from The Morning Call’s ‘Watchdog’ Paul Muschick focuses on yet another way identity thieves are cashing in using your personal information.
The latest growing scam is often referred to as ‘SIM swapping,’ and starts when your personal information is compromised and ends with identity thieves disabling your cell phone and activating a new one on your current account in its place.
Here are five things to know about ‘SIM swapping,’ including ways to protect yourself from scammers:
1. According to the National Consumers League a ‘SIM swap’ is named after the Subscriber Identity Module, or the small removable chip in your phone that contains all network and billing information. Think of it as the brains of your phone.
2. The Federal Trade Commission says the ‘SIM swapping’ scam is growing in popularity. Identity theft complaints involving wireless accounts made up 3.7 percent of all ID theft complaints last year. However, according to this blog by FTC Chief Technologist Lorrie Cranor, that number nearly doubled, to 6.3 percent by January of this year.
3. Because ‘SIM swapping’ is a two-step process, it starts with the scammer obtaining your personal information. That’s why the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office warns that you should treat any communication seeking personal information as suspicious in nature. Your cell phone company would not call (or email) you to verify information on an existing account, so if you receive a call from a ‘phone company representative’ requesting a user ID or password, hang up the phone.
4. You can protect yourself now from a mobile account takeover. The first and most important step, according to the FTC, is to establish a PIN or password that is required to make any changes to your account. Each of the major phone carriers offers this feature to customers, and those companies offering to defer payment or arrange credit for a customer must adhere to the Red Flags Rule. This requires a phone company to implement a written identity theft prevention program designed to detect “red flags” and stop identity theft in its tracks.
5. Victims can get help fast by reporting the identity theft and creating a recovery plan at IdentityTheft.gov. The site is the federal government’s one-stop resource for identity theft victims and guides you through the recovery process. Next, you can contact the Nation Consumer Telecom and Utilities Exchange and request your NCTUE Data Report. If will help you flag any accounts – pay TV, utilities, etc. – you don’t recognize.