Be very careful when you get a call from someone who tells you that your SIM card will be deactivated if you don’t update it. This is because it’s a classic SIM swap fraud trap. This is one of the most common cyber-frauds that is claiming victims across India. Cyber cells of police departments in Kolkata, Bengaluru and Delhi have already reported several instances of SIM Swap. Recently, a man in Pune lost Rs 93,500 to SIM swap fraud.
If you think only digitally-illiterate people fall prey to this scam, you got it wrong. Several tech-savvy urban youth too have become victims of this fraud. Criminals have devised several ways to commit SIM swap frauds, here are 13 things you must know to prevent this fraud.
SIM Swap or simply SIM card exchange is basically registering a new SIM card with your phone number. Once it is done, your SIM card will become invalid and your phone will stop receiving signal. Now, once the miscreants have your phone number, they will get OTPs on their SIM card. With this they can initiate bank transfer and even opt to shop online after getting OTPs.
You will get a call from a person who will pose as an executive from Airtel or Vodafone or Jio or Idea. He or she will then tell you that it’s a routine call to improve call drop problem or signal reception on your phone. He/she can also promise to help you get more mobile data or increase mobile internet speeds or simply can ‘guide’ you migrate to a 4G SIM card.
The scam caller will try all means to get your unique 20-digit SIM number. Every SIM card has this 20-digit number. Look for it at the back of your SIM card. The scamster will try to convince you share your 20-digit unique number to a phone number to get the desired service (improve call drops or the one stated above).
After convincing you to send the unique SIM number, the scamster will tell you to press 1 or simply authenticate the SIM swap. The process over here is that the scamster after obtaining the unique SIM number will initiate the ‘Swap’ with your telecom operator officially. For example, if you have a Vodafone SIM, the scamster will use a new Vodafone SIM to officially process the exchange of SIM card. Now, Vodafone will send a confirmation SMS to your phone number and the scamster would want you press 1 to authenticate the SIM Swap. With this Vodafone will understand that you have officially initiated the SIM Swap but then the attacker will end up hijacking your phone number.
Once the swap is successful, your SIM card will stop working and you will not get any signal on your phone. On the other hand, the scamster’s new SIM card will get full signal with your mobile number.
It is basically a two-step process. And sadly, SIM Swap is the part two of the fraud process. The scamster, in most cases, already has information about your banking ID and password. All they need is the OTP that you get on your registered mobile number to make financial transactions.
This is mostly through phishing attacks. If you happen to open a fake version of your banking website then your details automatically gets compromised.
Just imagine the possibilities of fraud if the scamsters have got access to your phone number as well as Aadhaar number. These days most services can be accessed using both these together and once your Aadhaar number and phone number is available, it can lead to serious identity theft.
In most cases, once the scamster has successfully imitated a SIM Swap, he or she will disturb you so that you get angry and switch off or silent your phone. This is crucial to buy time for scamsters. Usually, telecom operators take around four hours to activate a new SIM. So, the scamster will continuously call you and disturb you so that you either switch off phone or silent it during this 4-hour window. Now, when the Swap is complete you will not even get to know about it.
Sadly, senior citizens who are less digitally literate are the prime targets of these type of scams. It is important to advise them regularly and inform them to strictly not entertain unknown callers.
It is always a healthy habit to keep track of your bank account and balance. Also, keep changing your internet banking password so that you it gets difficult for miscreants. Also, if you notice any suspicious internet banking activity report to your bank immediately to stop the transaction.
Remember the time when you had shifted from a 2G to 3G or 4G SIM card? You had actually used the same SIM Swap technology to register your new SIM card with the existing phone number instantly from the comfort of your house. Also, the time when you migrated from traditional SIM cards to the new nano SIM cards you had also used this technology.
SIM Swap is a powerful tool and it totally depends with whom you are communicating. In legit SIM exchanges, you are connected to the servers of service providers like Airtel, Vodafone or Idea. These operators have designated official USSD codes for SIM Swap. But the problem arises when you do not directly do it yourself. If you happen to send the unique 20-digit SIM number to someone else then he might initiate the process of exchanging your SIM card. It is all about the unique 20-digit SIM card number. The swapping process simply registers your phone number with the new SIM card that is in the hands of the miscreants.