Fraud Alert: SIM Swap (Port-Out) Scam
| March 31, 2020
As real estate professionals, your cell phone is often how you operate your business. This is especially true now that we’re following physical distancing protocols in response to the COVID-19 global health pandemic.
Recently, RECA has become aware that people are having their cell phone numbers stolen from them—not their actual cell phone, but their phone number. And, real estate professionals may be more exposed than most, as their number is often publicly available on a wide variety of platforms.
The SIM swap—or port-out—scam is a type of fraud that is increasing in Canada.
While phone companies have processes in place to protect you, fraudsters may gain access to your personal information, answer questions used to confirm your identity, and take control of your cell phone account. After they gain access, they will transfer your number to a different provider and SIM card (known as porting-out your number). If you’re on the road and you aren’t watching your phone, you could miss your provider’s warning that your service is about to end.
Once the fraudsters start receiving your private texts and messages, they will attempt to access as many credentials for your financial and social media accounts as possible before you realize you’ve lost service on your phone. When they have access, they can drain your bank accounts and change your passwords, often holding your accounts for ransom.
Having access to your accounts means fraudsters could gain access to your clients’ information as well.
Protect yourself and your clients
- call your cell provider to request a port hold on your account (where provided)
- use a PIN or passcode to access your cell phone account
- change email and social media account passwords regularly
- use complex, alphanumeric passwords or passphrases—the longer, the better
- use different passwords for each account
- change your passwords regularly
- provide personal information over the phone unless you made the call
- use a callback number provided by a telemarketer. Instead, find a contact number on the business’ website—remember to look for the lock symbol to the left of the url (website address)
- overshare on social media. The online questionnaires about your senior year in high school may seem fun but you could be giving away answers that allow hackers to access your accounts
- use your browser to save passwords
In our global information world, we all have a lot of passwords we need to remember. Using a secure password manager like LastPass, KeePass, or Dashlane provides protection as well as secure password generation for your accounts.
While you’re at it, it doesn’t hurt to ensure your virus and malware protection software is also up to date.
If you suspect your phone number has been stolen through a porting-out scam—the first sign is usually that you can only make emergency calls from your phone, followed by password change notifications flooding your email inbox—take immediate action.
• contact your cell phone provider to stop the port and have your cell number suspended in the meantime
• contact your financial institution(s)
• place a fraud alert on your credit report
• file a police report
The world is currently focused on mitigating COVID-19, but fraudsters are still working to hack as many accounts, and steal as much money, as they can. Stay vigilant.
See the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website for more information.