What happens if a stranger gets your SIM card? And can others do things when putting your SIM number on their phones?
SIM cards are not only small chips for making phone calls. In fact, they carry a lot of personal information about their owners which can be very serious if a wrong person had them. SIM card theft is a common way of identity theft thieves may use to access your personal. Even more, they can access your financial information and use them without your consent. If a thief had your SIM card, there are a lot of things he can do with it.
Consequences of SIM card theft
Basically, having your SIM card allows the person to insert it into any other phone and access your accounts linked to your number. Also, he can make calls and send messages impersonating your identity. In addition, strangers who get your SIM card can create social media accounts in your name and use them for many reasons. Just imaging having a different account on Facebook, Instagram, or Tinder with your main phone number.
They can use your phone number
The thief can use your SIM card for making calls and sending messages without paying for them. Simply because the SIM card is registered with your name and there is no evidence you didn’t make these calls. Similarly, he may access the internet and use cellular data to browse whatever content on the internet without paying a single penny. So, he will use it for his own personal use and you have to pay the bills.
Impersonating your identity
With your SIM card and little information about you, the thief can call your bank or card issuers for example pretending to be you, and get more information. Later, he might use this information to do other transactions with your financial information. In other words, letting people use your number freely can risk your financial details and bank information. So, be careful with that and never trust strangers and give them your mobile phone.
Access two-factor authentication
Most online services now use two-factor authentication methods for more security. This is by requiring a password and a passcode sent to your phone number every time you use their service. With your SIM card, thieves will receive two-factor authentication codes and can use them to access some of your accounts like Facebook, Google, and more.
Further, they can sign up for any service using your credentials (assuming they know them). Then, confirm your identity with the text code sent to your number. That way, people can easily log in to your social media accounts by pretending to forget your password. That’s because the site will ask them for a phone number to send the verification code, then, the email. In some cases, the security of the site will protect your account from unauthorized access. However, in other cases, by having your phone number, they can easily logo to your accounts.
How it occurs?
SIM card swapping
The most common way that doesn’t need any technology for stealing SIM cards is called SIM card swapping. Simply, thieves will call your SIM card provider pretending to be you and report his SIM card is lost or not working. Next, he will ask for a replacement sent to his address. That way, they have a copy of your SIM card even without touching your mobile phone.
In some cases, phone providers will ask for some personal information before sending any replacement SIM cards. So, if the thief managed to hack or steal some of your personal identifying information, he will do this SIM card swapping easily.
SIM card cloning
Cloning is similar to swapping in the effects but the method is different. In SIM cloning, the thief must have access to your original SIM card to clone it. So, it is more difficult than SIM card swapping. The thief has to take your SIM card and create a clone of it using certain software. This software will produce an exact copy of the SIM card including all the information stored on the SIM.
With this copy, the attacker can have access to your accounts and authentication codes. Then, he will use this information to impersonate you or do transactions with your name.
How to avoid the consequences of SIM card theft?
Although it is hard to prevent SIM card theft (unless by refusing to give your mobile phone to anyone), you can mitigate some of the resulting risks. Even if a thief managed to do a SIM card swap, you can avoid most of the identity theft attacks he might do.
Hide your personal information
In most SIM card swaps, thieves need to know your basic personal information in case customer support asked for them. That includes your files and last name, your address, or even your email address. So, if you managed to hide this information from anyone you don’t know, there is a big chance they won’t be able to do the SIM card swap.
Also, even if they managed to do so, they still need some information to steal your bank IDs, credit cards, and others. Thus, try not to write much about yourself as your address or phone number on social media or any other online platforms. Putting all your details and contact information on your Facebook profile, Snapchat, TikTok, etc won’t help you in any way. Instead, that could help scammers hacking your accounts and stealing your details.
Use multi-factor authentication
Instead of using two-factor authentication only, use a multi-factor authentication system. This requires other authentication codes rather than the one sent to your phone number. For example, you have to write a password, the code sent to your phone, and a code that appears on the authentication app. Using this method, even if the thief has access to your SIM card, he won’t be able to provide other codes.
Use SIM PIN
Nearly all mobile phones have the feature of locking your SIM card with a PIN code. Hence, if anyone attempts to use the SIM card on iPhone or Android, he has to provide this PIN code. The PIN code is provided by the SIM card provider not you. However, you can change it later but you need to get the original PIN.
To activate the SIM PIN lock, go to settings and search for SIM PIN or SIM card lock. Next, write down the original PIN lock you got from the SIM card provider. After that, change it or just use this original one.
One last thing to mention here is that if you received any suspicious text messages as authentication codes you didn’t request, contact your cell phone provider. Similarly, if you feel your call or data package is consumed fast, check your consumption or contact customer support. Ask for a detailed consumption report to see if someone else is using your SIM card or not. If yes, cancel your SIM card immediately.
Although SIM cards don’t seem to hold much information, they can be used to get access to sensitive personal information. A SIM card attack can lead to other costly and sometimes very serious consequences in the US and all over the world. Thus, consider all the security features available for you to protect yourself from such an attack.