Social EngineeringJan Kahmen5 min read

SIM Swapping: Functionality & Protection

SIM swapping is a type of identity-based fraud in which criminals gain access to another person's account by transferring their SIM card to another phone

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What is SIM Swapping ?

SIM swapping is a type of identity-based fraud in which criminals gain access to another person's account by transferring their SIM card to another cell phone, thus gaining control of the mobile number. They can then use identification numbers or obtain access codes that facilitate account access, or they can hijack or steal data belonging to other accounts or services. The goal is to get into the victim's account online, such as banking, email or social media.

How Often Does SIM Swapping Happen ?

SIM swapping scams are becoming more common, especially in countries where identity theft and cybercrime are widespread. However, SIM swapping attacks can be detected anywhere in the world. In the U.S. alone, over 1611 SIM swapping cases were detected between 2018 and 2020 year. The amount of damage is approximately 68 million euros. As technology evolves, SIM swapping fraud can be expected to continue to grow.

How Does SIM Swapping Work?

SIM swapping is a process in which access data of a SIM card is transferred to a new card. As a result, the original card loses its validity and all services offered by the network operator are transferred to the new card. The fraud usually starts with the attacker obtaining personal data about the mobile account holder. This can be done by buying data on the black market or through phishing attempts. The fraudster then goes to the phone company where the account is registered and pretends to be the account holder. He claims to have lost the original SIM card and asks the operator to transfer the number to a new card. There is also a rarer variant, where an employee of the mobile operator works directly with the attacker and provides him with the necessary information to transfer the phone number to a SIM card of their choice. If the fraudster succeeds in doing this, they have full control over the phone and can intercept calls and text messages.

How to Recognize a SIM Swap Attack?

  • Unexpected notifications: If you suddenly receive text messages or calls indicating an unexpected change in service, it could be that a SIM swapping attack has taken place.
  • No phone function: if you suddenly cannot make calls with your phone or the data service is no longer available, you should contact the service provider to find out if a card swap has been performed.
  • Unusual posts on social media: if you notice posts on your social media profile that are not yours, could be
  • Warning signs of a SIM swap attack are often clear and usually occur shortly after the attack. Watch for account suspensions, unexpected transactions, and unexpected calls, text messages, or emails.

How Do I Protect Myself from SIM Swapping ?

  • Prudent use of the Internet: Be careful when surfing the Internet. Be wary of phishing emails, don't follow suspicious links, and never enter personal information. No service provider will ever ask you to provide banking information or social security numbers in an email.
  • Secure mobile accounts: Many phone companies offer account holders the option to increase the security of their mobile accounts with unique passwords, PIN codes and security questions that are prompted when the owner wants to make changes to their account.
  • Authentication apps: Use secure apps instead of a phone number for two-factor authentication. These are tied to the physical phone device rather than a number, which reduces the risk of SIM hijacking.
  • Ask for a callback: If your bank or mobile carrier offers it, you can set up your account to call only the number registered to the account when changes are made - another way to stop SIM swap fraud.


SIM swapping is a form of identity theft in which criminals gain access to another person's account by transferring their SIM card to another phone, gaining control of the mobile number. SIM swapping fraud is widespread and can be detected anywhere in the world. To protect themselves from SIM swapping attacks, users should be cautious when browsing the Internet, secure their mobile accounts, and use authentication apps.


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