“SIM swap” scams netted a total of $68 million in 2021, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced on Tuesday (February 15) via ABC News.
The agency issued a warning to U.S. residents regarding “SIM swap” scams, which take place when criminals obtain a victim’s cellphone SIM cards to steal their personal information, including bank account details.
The FBI confirmed it received more than 1,611 complaints in 2021 alone, while the $68 million was more than 50% of the three-year total of $12 million lost between 2018 to 2020.
The SIM card information is obtained by criminals through phishing tactics in which the suspects pose as the victim’s cell phone carrier, the FBI confirmed in its warning to U.S. residents.
“Once the SIM is swapped, the victim’s calls, texts, and other data are diverted to the criminal’s device,” the FBI said via ABC News. “This access allows criminals to send ‘Forgot Password’ or ‘Account Recovery’ requests to the victim’s email and other online accounts associated with the victim’s mobile telephone number.”
“The criminal uses the codes to login and reset passwords, gaining control of online accounts associated with the victim’s phone profile,” the agency added.
U.S. residents are advised to be aware of suspicious emails and not advertise their financial ownership in cryptocurrency or other assets publicly online.