SIM-swap fraud: A new way of stealing money
Image: A marketing events manager at the Black Hat USA 2014 hacker conference.
Photograph: Steve Marcus/Reuters
With mobile phones becoming a convenient tool for banking, fraudsters have begun to use SIM-swap.
The modus operandi: A fraudster obtains your bank account details and registers
your mobile phone number through phishing or malware.
He approaches your mobile service provider with your fake identity proof and, claiming loss of handset or SIM damage,
seeks a duplicate SIM card. Following verification, the original SIM is deactivated and a new one is issued to the fraudster.
He then initiates financial transactions from your bank account, details of which he had earlier stolen, and
receives payment confirmation requests on the duplicate SIM. Since the original SIM has been
deactivated, you remain unaware about the fraudulent transactions he makes.
“This is basically the second phase of a fraud attack. First, your banking information is stolen; and then,
your SIM card is cloned to access transaction confirmation messages. It is not yet common in India. There
have been a few stray incidents in past one year, though. With mobile handsets being used more frequently for
banking transactions, the number of such fraud attacks could increase,” said
a senior executive of a foreign bank in India.
A few private banks have started educating their customers on ways to prevent a SIM-swap fraud.
ICICI Bank, for instance, sent a mail to its internet banking customers last week,
detailing tips to safeguard themselves against such frauds.
Bankers are advising customers to enquire with their mobile operators if they do not have network
connectivity and are not receiving calls or text messages for unusually long periods.
Photograph: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
It is also recommended that you do not switch off your mobile handset if you are receiving numerous
unknown calls. “It could be a ploy to make you turn your phone off and prevent you from noticing a
tampered network connection,” ICICI Bank wrote in its email to internet banking customers.
Bankers maintain that India has one of the most secured payment systems globally and most
online frauds can be prevented if the customer is more vigilant. It is estimated that the average
card fraud loss rate globally is six basis points, while it is only one basis point in India.
“India’s payment infrastructure is one of the most secured in the world. Fraudsters will always try to
invent new techniques but banks also continue to devise new defence mechanisms. It is an ongoing process.
We have had one or two odd instances of SIM-swap frauds but it is not yet common,” said
Jairam Sridharan, president (RETAIL lending & payments), Axis Bank.
परोपकाराय फलन्ति वृक्षा: परोपकाराय वहन्ति नद्यः।
परोपकाराय दुहन्ति गावः परोपकाराय इदं शरीरम्।।
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