Woman's phone hijacked in apparent 'SIM swapping' scam
TORONTO -- A woman from Orangeville, Ont. said she was the victim of a 'SIM swapping' scam that left her feeling “violated.”
“I'm just shocked that this happened to me,” Simone Abolarinde told CTV News Toronto.
Abolarinde said it was last month when she was first locked out of her cell phone. When she got home, she found that her bank account was overdrawn and she no longer had control over accounts connected to her phone.
The scammer had allegedly contacted her phone provider, pretended to be Abolarinde and asked for a new SIM card.
The scammers then created their own password and locked Abolarinde out of her own phone using two-factor verification.
“Basically they said once two-factor authentication is turned on they have no control and they cannot recover the account," Abolarinde said.
In the scam, criminals search for your personal information, call your cell phone provider and request a new SIM card so they can gain access to your phone, bank accounts, emails and photos.
Carmi Levy, a tech expert with Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont, described the scam as “one of the most terrifying attacks" he has seen in years.
Levy said scammers are constantly combing through social media accounts to try and find enough information to impersonate people and he says everyday things that are posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram could give thieves clues to access accounts.
“You would be amazed at how easy it is for criminals to get all kinds of private information about us that we willingly post online,” Levy said.
According to Levy, the best way to protect yourself against the scam is is to stop posting private information to social media that could be used to guess your security questions.
“We really have to give our heads a shake and start dialing back the amount of information we share online, especially when it comes to social media," Levy said.
After thieves take control of your accounts it can be difficult to get them back so people are often victimized twice trying to regain control of their accounts, Levy said.
Abolarinde says that while she is still trying to get her photos back, her bank did refund her the $2,000 that was stolen. She also said she had to get new credit and debits cards and a new phone number and says it was a very frustrating experience.
Levy says one way scammers get personal information is by creating fake surveys or prize contests on social media. He advises that you don’t fill them out online because it's like handing your information to thieves on a silver platter.