SIM card fraud: What the major carriers are doing about it

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SIM card fraud: What the major carriers are doing about it
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Criminals are trying to steal personal information from your phone. That’s why scammers are taking to SIM card fraud like never before.

With all of the safety and security issues cell phone users face, you may be wondering what the major carriers are doing to combat SIM card fraud.

What is SIM card fraud?

SIM card fraud, also known as a SIM swap hack or phone account hijacking, is a form of identity theft in which the scammer is able to steal your mobile account and the personal data attached to it.

Criminals can gain access by targeting a weak two-factor authentication or even bribing or tricking a phone service representative.

The end result is that thieves can access your contact list, bank account and other personal data and some serious damage can be done.

Here’s what the major carriers are doing about SIM card fraud

The wireless carriers haven’t been as proactive as many of their customers would like when it comes to SIM card fraud. That’s why we contacted each of them to see if they had a plan:

Verizon

How to stop SIM card fraud: Verizon Wireless

Spokeswoman Kate Jay tells Team Clark that Verizon consumers need to be vigilant about protecting their personal information. For instance, Verizon will never make an outbound request for customers to provide personal account information.

“So even if you see an inbound call that looks like it’s from Verizon, if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. If you have questions, hang up and immediately dial Verizon’s customer service line at 1-800-922-0204 or *611 from your mobile device,” she says.

“To protect yourself from SIM swapping fraud, Verizon recommends you call its customer service line and put an administrative lock on your account,” Jay says.

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When you put an administrative lock on your account, “this means no changes can be made (including porting a number to another carrier) without you calling in to personally verify the transaction,” she says.

AT&T

AT&T logo

“We continually look for ways to enhance our policies and safeguards to protect against these sorts of scams,” an AT&T spokesperson told Team Clark.

“When our customers are victims of identity theft, we strive to reverse activity related to their account with us and restore service as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson says.

Customers can learn how to help protect themselves from this scam by going here.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile logo

When it comes to SIM card fraud, T-Mobile has had the most high-profile incident: The carrier was sued in 2018 after a customer’s account was hijacked and his bank account drained. After that, the company mass-texted some security steps to its customer base, including this writer:

A T-Mobile spokesperson tells Team Clark: “We encourage customers to add extra security features to their accounts, such as passcodes and security questions. Also, it’s important to note T-Mobile will never proactively reach out and ask you to provide information, like your passcode.”

“On our end, we never stop looking for ways to make our services even more secure,” the spokesperson says. “We encourage our customers to contact The T-Mobile Care team with any questions or concerns. They can dial 611 from their T-Mobile phone or call 1-800-937-8997.”

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Sprint

Sprint logo

Sprint didn’t respond to our inquiry about SIM card fraud, but the company requires all of its wireless customers to set up a PIN and create security questions to access their accounts.

On its website, Sprint says that one way they protect your account is that they’ll notify you “by email or text message” each time your PIN, security question or answer changes.

How to stop SIM card fraud: 4 steps you can take

1. Up your two-factor authentication game: Not just any two-factor authentication works though. If a hacker has already gained access to your phone, they will intercept any SMS-based code that is used for authentication. Instead use a strong two-factor authentication app (like Authy Microsoft Authenticator  or 1Password) to lock your account down. See these other password tools.

2. Create a PIN: Add a PIN or a passcode to your mobile phone account. This way, you have an added layer of security and protection.

3. Put a SIM PIN on your phone: A SIM PIN is a multi-digit code that you enter anytime your phone restarts or if you remove the SIM from your device. If someone steals your phone, it won’t work unless they know the PIN. AT&T users, get a PUK code here.

  • If you have an iPhone, go to Settings > Cellular > SIM PIN and turn it on.
  • If you have an Android, go to Settings > Security & Location (or Security & Privacy) > SIM Card Lock (or More Settings, then Ecryption & Credentials) and turn it on.

4. Freeze your credit: Money expert Clark Howard is a big proponent of freezing your credit. This prevents crooks from taking out new lines of credit in your name. Here is his Credit Freeze Guide.

Here are more Clark.com articles you might enjoy:

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