7 On Your Side: How to prevent a SIM card swap scam

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Friday, January 27, 2023
How to prevent a SIM card swap scam
After a T-mobile data breach, customers claim they're paying the price and are being targeted by cybercriminals in a sim card scam. Nina Pineda has more on the story.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Wireless giant T-Mobile announced a personal data breach this week that exposed 37 million customers' information to hackers.

It marks the eighth time in five years that leaks have occurred in the company's security. Now some customers claim they're paying the price and are being targeted by cybercriminals.

With so many companies reporting major breaches, we should all assume our personal info is out there.

The FBI says these leaks have led to your phone getting hijacked through its SIM card - the little microchip which makes your phone your phone. And cybercrooks are profiting, stealing a record $68 million a year by sneakily swapping them out.

Veronica Burgos and Ivanka Dalangin are both T-Mobile customers who had their bank accounts cleaned out when their phones went offline.

Dalangin had $20,000 wired out of her account and Burgos lost $60,000.

Burgos, a teacher, worked three jobs to save that money. She was on a plane, flying home from Disney World with her son, when the fraudulent wire transfer occurred.

Dalangin was at her job where she is a registered nurse. She says after her phone reconnected, she got a text confirming a wire transfer for $20,000 to a "Michael A."

Both women were victims of a SIM card swap scam. That's where a cybercrook takes over your phone after convincing your service provider to switch the chip containing your phone number, texts, contacts and PIN number to a new phone.

It allows the scammer to hijack your messages from a different phone and transfer money from bank accounts.

Both women had their Citibank accounts drained and say the bank informed them they allowed the transfers by responding to texts and calls while their own phones were dark.

Burgos said Citibank called and said they spoke to a Veronica who verified the transfer.

Burgos gave Citibank her boarding pass as proof she couldn't have made the transfer. And Dalangin showed an email detailing her T-Mobile interruption of service.

Each filed a police report. But Dalangin's claim was denied and the bank would not return her $20,000 even though it flagged two other charges for fraud the same day.

One was a $2,000 charge on her Citi Costco Visa, it was blocked. And a $1,500 Zelle charge was also returned.

7 On Your Side went to bat for both customers. The bank wouldn't budge on Dalangin's case, so she took both companies to court.

But just a day after we contacted Citibank - Burgos got all her stolen money back just in time for her wedding.

Because of customer privacy - Citibank couldn't tell 7 On Your Side why some customers are getting refunds and the others are not.

The T-Mobile CEO stated he was "truly sorry" for the past leaks and said his company "didn't live up to the expectations to protect our customers..."

The big takeaway to prevent SIM card swap: Use two-factor authentication that doesn't rely on texts and look for apps that authenticate using your fingerprint or face scan.

Also, make sure to change your mobile account's PIN and passwords - use strong ones -- not pet names.

And look into Takeover Protection, a pay feature of your cellphone.

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