Everything to Know About Phone Number Takeover


We’ve shifted from analog to digital communication with the advancement of technology. Communication changed from letters to voice communication after Graham Bell invented the telephone. Mobile phones replaced landlines, and smartphones replaced feature phones. Internet communication, like social media, has replaced cellular communication.

As technology evolves, so do the scams that go with them.

Read on to learn about a scam in the mobile age: phone number takeover.

Signs of Mobile Number Takeover

Here’s how to know if this scam has hit you:

  1. Not receiving any calls or texts.
  2. Receiving error messages when you try to make phone calls
  3. Notifications from your carrier that someone made changes to your account.

Any of these might mean a hacker has taken over your phone number. Scammers do this to intercept your text messages and access your online accounts. Read on to find out how it works.

How Does Mobile Number Takeover Work?

Hackers take over mobile numbers to access PIN codes and one-time pass (OTP) codes. From there, they can take over your organization’s assets. How do they do it?

SIM Cloning

This method requires physical access to a SIM card.

Hackers create a copy of the SIM card using cloning software. The cloning software copies the unique identifier number of the SIM card to a blank SIM card. The fraudsters use the newly cloned SIM to access your SMS messages.

Unlike sim swapping or call forwarding methods, you’ll still have access to your phone number.

Call Forwarding

Call forwarding is a legitimate feature offered by cell carriers. It allows users to forward or divert their communication to another number.

Call forwarding is helpful if you want your communication handled by someone else, like a receptionist.

Attackers can abuse call forwarding to take over mobile numbers. They might trick users or the phone carrier into turning it on. Then, they’ll divert all your calls to the attacker’s phone. Review your call forwarding settings and ensure they match what you expect.

SIM Swapping

SIM swapping (also known as SIM hijacking) is another cybercrime technique. Hackers convince cellular network providers to port your phone number to a device in their possession.

The hacker collects the user’s full name, date of birth, social security number, address, and family details. They might find it on social media or public records. If that doesn’t work, they buy it from the dark web or trick the user into sharing it.

Then, the attacker calls the cell provider, impersonates the victim, and convinces them to assign her the victim’s phone number.

Now, the hacker can access the communication of the user. If you use SMS for two-factor authentication, she can now intercept the messages and take over your accounts.

Porting-out Fraud

Port-out is another legitimate service provided by cellular companies. SIM port-outs allow users to shift from one cellular service provider to another. Again, attackers can abuse this to take control of your phone number.

The scam works the same way as SIM swapping, but they ask the carrier to port your number to another provider this time.

Once they do that, you won’t have access to your phone, and getting your number back is more challenging.

How to Protect Yourself from Phone Number Takeover Scams

Here are some ways to protect yourself from these scams and keep your data safe.

Protect Your Personal Information

Protecting personal information is the first step to preventing hackers from accessing your details.

  1. Keep your social media private.
  2. Use answers to security questions that hackers can’t look up online.
  3. Google yourself to see what’s out there. Remove any information that scammers might use to impersonate you.
  4. Don’t fall for phishing calls or texts. If you receive a suspicious message, report it as spam and block the number.
  5. Invest in a dark web monitoring service to check whether your info is exposed in a data breach.
  6. If you need to determine whether a call is legitimate, call the business at its publicly posted phone number.

Use An eSIM Card

The FCC reports that embedded SIM (eSIM) cards may decrease SIM swap risk. Since the cards are not removable, they eliminate some risks of physical SIM swaps. They don’t prevent other SIM card attacks, so it’s important to follow other security precautions.

Set up a PIN

Set up a strong PIN for your SIM card. That will block criminals from tampering with your settings and accessing personal information.

Avoid Phishing Attacks

You need to know how to recognize phishing attacks through cellular or social media communication. Criminals use malicious hyperlinks that allow them to get access to mobile phones. Don’t click any links that you don’t trust.

What to Do If You’ve Been a Victim of an Account Takeover

Here’s what the FCC says to do if you’ve been a victim of SIM swapping or port-out fraud:

  1. Contact your mobile carrier ASAP.
  2. Contact your bank and other financial institutions.
  3. File a report with law enforcement.
  4. Alert the credit bureaus that you’ve been a victim of fraud.
  5. Get copies of your credit report.

Use A Secure Mobile Provider

To upgrade your phone security, switch to a secure provider like Mobilen. Mobilen is a privacy-centric wireless carrier focused on securing government agencies and private sector organizations. Their #1 goal is to stop phone fraud from happening in the first place.

If you’re looking for the most secure phone provider, Mobilen is the best choice.


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