A text message is being widely shared on WhatsApp and social media platforms, which warns users of a new scam called SIM Swap Fraud. According to the viral message, users targeted with this fraud briefly lose their network connectivity before they receive a phone call from their ‘service provider’ asking them to enter certain numbers to get their mobile operation to resume. Newschecker found that the viral message is misleading, and does not paint the true picture.
Newschecker received the viral message on our WhatsApp tipline (+91 9999499044) to be fact checked.
We also found several users sharing the claim on Facebook with similar captions.
Fact Check /Verification
We started our investigation by conducting a keyword search on Google along with the words “SIM Swap Fraud” and found several media reports warning users of the scam. One such report by Vice uploaded on their website on 12th February, 2018 titled ‘‘I Lived a Nightmare:’ SIM Hijacking Victims Share Their Stories’.
According to the report, a SIM swap, at its most basic, is when someone gets your carrier to transfer your phone number to a SIM card they own. They aren’t doing it to conceal prank calls or run up long-distance fees. Scammers can quickly complete the text-based two-factor authentication procedures that guard your most sensitive accounts by redirecting your incoming messages. Or, if you don’t already have two-factor enabled, they may be able to deceive services into divulging your passwords by using your phone number.
Newscecker also found a fact-check by a tech based website called Tech Arp titled ‘Can SIM Swap Attack Empty Bank Accounts Without Warning?’ uploaded on their website on 16th January, 2022.
Explaining that SIM swap attacks do exist, and are extremely hazardous, the article details that they do not function in the way the viral message suggests.
In the majority of SIM swap scams, con artists ask for a SIM card replacement by using your personal information, “which they have either stolen from you, bought from other criminals, or gained through prior phishing scams or other forms of social engineering”.
“The scammer doesn’t need you to do anything … Most of the time, it’s not until you can no longer access your cell number that you realise you’ve been struck,” reads the report.
Does your bank account immediately get swiped clean?
No, not really. Speaking to Snopes, Steven Andrés, an instructor in the graduate program in homeland security at San Diego State University said that in most cases, victims don’t even realise their SIMs have been changed until it is too late, Andrés stated, as opposed to being duped over the phone and prompted to hit a button to start a malicious swap.
Andres further stated that the current phone’s SIM will just read “No Carrier” without making a notification. Both receiving and placing phone calls will be impossible for you but it does not, however, imply that your bank accounts will suddenly be swiped clean. The scammers need to be in possession of other details such as your bank login. The swapping of sim cards aids them in completing the text-based two-factor authentication procedures that guard your most sensitive accounts by redirecting your incoming messages. Or, if you don’t already have two-factor enabled, they may be able to deceive services into divulging your passwords by using your phone number.
So what about entering values that the scammer asks you to?
Tech Arp explains that entering the digit 1 can be somewhat true, however it only occurs under certain conditions. “The scammer will call the victim, claiming to be from their mobile service provider, and will try to get the victim to reveal his/her 20-digit SIM card number. The scammer will then use the 20-digit SIM number to initiate a SIM swap with the mobile service provider. The mobile service provider will automatically send an SMS to confirm the swap. Once the victim confirms the swap, his/her SIM card will stop working. The scammer now has access to the victim’s mobile number,” the article further explains.
Newschecker’s investigation revealed that the viral forward about SIM Swap fraud is partly false. If the user is targeted by a SIM card swap fraud, their bank accounts will not be emptied immediately as is claimed, as scammers need to know the user’s bank logins and passwords through other phishing scams. SIM card swap will only allow scammers to intercept OTPs to complete transactions.
Result: Partly False
Report by Vice on 12th February, 2018
Fact-Check by Tech Arp on 16th January, 2022.
Fact-Check by Snopes on 4th January, 2019
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