BACKGROUND

The SIM phone card scam was reported as far back as 2014 when a gang of fraudsters hijacked mobile phone accounts to defraud Vodafone customers of £2.8m by making £2.50 a minute calls to a premium rate number.

This was done by the fraudsters assigning the phone numbers of Vodafone customers to a SIM card in their possession by calling up and posing as the account holder and using the SIM cards to repeatedly call premium rate lines they had purchased.

Vodafone paid the premium rate phone lines for the calls before billing the genuine customer, who would only become aware of what was happening when their own phone stopped working, with some bills received by genuine customers being over £80,000.

BBC Watchdog have covered this scam.

HOW IT WORKS

This has advanced and escalated with the advent of new technology and the popularity of online banking. Fraudsters have been tricking mobile phone providers in to transferring phone numbers on to other SIM cards to access six-digit verification codes sent by text from your bank. At this point they will have already stolen information such as your username and password to empty your bank accounts.

The fraudsters gather personal information on individuals such as names, addresses and dates of birth which can easily be found on social media and online directories prior to contacting your mobile phone provider.

Security questions can be found out or guessed online as well, with your favourite colour being a popular one that can be found through social media or by simply guessing. Fraudsters have inside knowledge on the most popular security questions that are asked.

Fraudsters use this information to contact your mobile phone provider, which they can easily do online, and pose as the customer to transfer the phone number over to another SIM card and phone provider.

ENHANCED SECURITY MEASURES

Phone providers are enhancing their security measures in light of this, but it’s clearly a popular trend that has escalated with the average loss being reported at over £4,000.

Vodafone says it asks a range of security questions and sends a one-time access code to your mobile phone for verification. Customers can also use Vodafone’s Voice ID feature, which uses voice recognition software.

O2 says it sends a code to your mobile phone before a new SIM can be activated. Photo ID is needed in store.

EE asks customers a number of questions to prove their identity and if the customer fails these checks by phone, they must present a photo ID in store.

Frauds and scams are becoming more sophisticated, and I have also written about Facebook fraud, Amazon fraud and other types of fraud in this blog.

Have you been caught out by a SIM phone card scam?

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