Latest SIM swap scam draining bank accounts, warns TIO

Consumers are reporting having their bank accounts drained by fraudsters and their email inboxes accessed in the latest scam involving theft of mobile numbers, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has warned.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s (TIO) Systemic Spotlight has revealed that fraudsters steal a consumer’s mobile number by convincing the mobile service provider to switch the number to a new SIM card in the fraudster’s possession, known as “SIM swaps”.

Once a fraudster has access to a consumer’s mobile number they can use it to access the consumer’s bank account, emails and other online accounts.

“Fraudsters are developing new ways to collect personal information about a consumer – accessing social media profiles, posing as telemarketers or sending deceptive emails,” Ombudsman Judi Jones said.

“They use this information to impersonate consumers, deceive mobile service providers and steal consumers’ mobile numbers.”

Ms Jones noted that the TIO’s Systemic Investigation Team noticed a trend of complaints in 2018 about mobile service providers who had a low bar for consumer identity verification.

“We have been working with these providers to address these problems and help prevent future complaints,” she said.

What consumers should do if their mobile number is stolen?

If you find your service is suddenly disconnected or receive notification about a SIM swap you didn’t authorise, you may be a victim of mobile number theft. The TIO suggests you:

– Contact your bank or financial services provider immediately and explain that your mobile number has been taken. Ask them to check for any withdrawals or unusual transactions on your account;

– Contact your mobile service provider and ask them to get your number back; and

– Contact IDCARE, Australia and New Zealand’s national identity and cyber support service, at www.idcare.org or via phone on 1300 432 273.

If fraud or theft has occurred, contact the police, the TIO advises.

How consumers can protect against the theft of their mobile numbers

The more publicly available your personal information is, the more susceptible you are to mobile number theft. To protect yourself, the TIO suggest you:

– Don’t respond to emails asking for your bank account details, phone number and personal details;

– Don’t respond to any caller who asks for access to your computer;

– Don’t click on links in emails or text messages saying you have won a prize or have a message, particularly if you don’t know the sender; and

– Reduce disclosure of personal details such as full name, mobile number and full date of birth online on social media, online dating websites or blogs.

The TIO also said you need to lock your letterbox.

“Fraudsters can gain personal information about you by physically stealing your mail,” TIO warns.

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