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Alert – how you can be scammed by a method called SIM Splitting

9th May 2014

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) is alerting the public of a method called “SIM Splitting” used by fraudsters to steal your money.

How the scam works

Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) in the UK purchase victim’s personal details that are obtained through the spread of Trojan malware. Victims detail packages are purchased from overseas OCGs specialising in the collection of compromised personal data to sell.

Specific data is extracted, namely online bank account details and statements. Using the victim’s banking details to gain telephone access to the bank account; the fraudster then opens a parallel business account in the victim’s name. Opening a business account is subject to less stringent security checks once an individual already has a current account with a bank and helps make any transfers of money in the future less suspicious.

Details of the victim’s mobile phone, again extracted from the purchased personal data package, are then passed to an individual who specialises in the SIM Split step.

This SIM Splitter then:

  • Uses the bank statement obtained through the hacking to establish the mobile network the victim belongs to;
  • Uses open source searches using the victim’s details to ascertain potential answers to security questions;
  • Uses open source searches to establish the mobile phone network provider;
  • Obtains a blank SIM card, either through an insider at a phone company or by purchasing one;
  • Contacts the phone provider and tells them that the mobile phone has been lost/damaged;
  • The new SIM card is activated while the victim’s is cancelled;
  • Contact details and security questions may be changed with the phone provider as to further frustrate and hinder the victim from reporting the fraud.

As soon as the SIM card is activated the SIM Splitter contacts the OCG and tells them to transfer funds from the victim’s current account into the newly set up business account.

As a security measure the banks will often make a call or send a text to the phone number registered to the account to confirm if the transaction is genuine. The SIM Splitter agrees to the transfer when contacted and disposes of the SIM card afterwards so not to be traced.

The OCG can then withdraw or transfer funds away from the business account with a lower level of scrutiny whilst maintaining a certain level of access and control of the account with the stolen details.

How to protect yourself against this type of fraud

  • Always make sure you have suitable anti-virus software installed and that your firewall is switched on.
  • Always consider what you are downloading – do not open files from unknown sources.
  • Be wary of ‘pop-ups’ requesting unsolicited downloads.
  • If you discover a virus on your computer, disconnect from the internet immediately and ask a specialist for advice.
  • When creating a password, try not to use the same password for more than one account. This will prevent further accounts being taken over if one has been compromised.
  • Use complicated passwords: vary the case, use 8 or more characters. Never use personal information such as names or dates of birth.
  • Try not to post information on social media such as your birth date, your first pet, or school as these are normally included in security questions to reset your password. Fraudsters may use these answers to access your account via the “Forgot Password” link.

To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online fraud reporting tool.

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