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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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BBB Tip of the Week: Watch for SIM swapping hackers

By Tyler Russell BBB Northwest and Pacific

“DING.” Your cell phone just got a text message. “BUZZ.” You have just gotten an email. “BING.” Across your screen comes a notification that your cellphone carrier has updated the settings on your phone.

Do you update? It appears to be from your cellphone provider, and without thinking you could have just been hacked. Your personal information, social media accounts or even Social Security number could be compromised. It happens that fast and most times without warning, but, Better Business Bureau Northwest and Pacific is here to help.

BBB Scam Tracker is seeing regular reports from victims of SIM swapping, also known as SIM hijacking or cellphone porting. Hackers are using this tactic to gain control of victims’ cell numbers and access their social, email and banking accounts.

How the scam works

You receive a text message from your mobile carrier stating your SIM card has been “updated.” In most cases, your phone then stops working. When you contact your cell phone company, they explain your number was ported to another carrier – at your request.

How did this happen? Scammers called your cellphone carrier, claimed to be you and told them your SIM card was lost or stolen. They requested your number be transferred to a SIM card already in their possession. In most cases, scammers only need your home address or Social Security number to pose as you.

Several hours or days can pass before you realize something is up. That gives scammers time to access any account that verifies your identity via text message. Scammers can access your bank account and make transfers, gather personal information from your email, and even steal your social media handles to impersonate you further.

Protecting yourself

Set up extra security with your mobile provider. Most major cellphone carriers allow you to set up additional verification measures that can prevent a stranger from successfully porting your phone number.

Stop linking your phone number to your online accounts. Instead, create strong passwords and security questions.

Be careful when sharing personal information. Never share your full name, phone number, address and other personal information with people or companies you don’t know and trust.

To learn more about scams, go to BBB.org/ScamTips. If you’ve been targeted by this scam, help others avoid the same problem by reporting your experience at BBB.org/ScamTracker.

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