SIM swap scams: this is what you need to know

SIM swap scams were recently in the news again, when an 85-year-old pensioner was robbed of R300 000 after receiving a notification that his mobile number had been ported to another mobile operator. When the man ported back to his network a few days later, he had lost access to his internet banking service, and later established that two transfers of R150 000 each had been made from his bank account.

This type of fraudulent activity has become more prevalent of late, and involves collaboration between the banking and cellphone industry. What can you do to protect yourself?

How does the SIM swap scam work?

The key to accessing your bank account with a SIM swap scam is to obtain enough personal information from you to request a SIM swap on your behalf. Scammers sometimes obtain additional information about your banking details through phishing scams.

Once a SIM swap has been done, the scammers can obtain the one-time pin needed to authorise transactions from your bank. The scammer can now request that any amount of money is transferred from your account to theirs.

How do you protect yourself?

Should you ever be asked for personal information over the phone, via email or WhatsApp, do not disclose it. Personal information may include anything from your home address, ID number, full name and email address.

Unless you have no doubt that you are dealing with a legitimate company that needs to verify your identity by asking security questions, never disclose information that could be used to gain access to additional confidential information. It goes without saying that you should never reveal your ATM pin to anyone, not even your bank, and this also goes for any internet banking passwords or other login details.

Never ignore an SMS from your mobile network informing you that a SIM swap has been requested on your behalf, and immediately inform your mobile network to ignore the request. If you realise what is happening too late, still take the necessary measures and inform your mobile network and your bank that you suspect fraudulent activity on your account, and advise them to be on the lookout. Timing is of the essence here – the quicker you realise that something is out of sorts, the quicker you can take steps to avoid being scammed and robbed.

Whenever you suspect that any of your accounts have been compromised – whether this is your email account, your social media accounts or internet banking accounts – change your passwords immediately. You can check the security of your email account by visiting Have I Been Pwned.

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