Here’s what someone can do with your stolen SIM card:
They can cause you a lot of problems.
A stolen or hacked SIM card can be used to run up a phone bill, steal personal information, hack online accounts, steal your identity and even commit fraud.
A stolen SIM card gives someone complete access to your phone line, which comes with many concerns.
If you want to learn all about what things someone can do with your SIM card when stolen and how to avoid those, then this article is for you.
Let’s jump right in!
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What Bad Things Can Someone Do With Your SIM Card? (3 Problems)
If someone malicious has your SIM card, it can lead to a lot of trouble.
There’s not a clear limit on what they can do with access to such an essential part of your digital infrastructure, but the most obvious and concerning problems are easy to cover.
#1 Run up a Bill
If someone has access to your SIM card, they have access to your phone line.
They can place calls and send texts from your phone line.
If any of those calls or texts incur charges, you have to foot the bill.
This leads to a common scam. Nefarious individuals will steal a SIM card.
Using the stolen number, they will call premium phone lines with it.
The scammers are in cahoots with the owners of the premium lines.
This runs up a bill on the stolen account.
Here’s where it gets extra tricky.
If you report the stolen SIM card, your phone company might forgive those premium charges on your account (it varies by case).
Even if they do, they will have to negotiate with the owners of the premium number that was called, and often, some or all of those charges will still be paid.
This can be done with premium text messaging as well.
In general, people use stolen phone numbers to scam money in whatever creative ways they can.
#2 Steal Data
Perhaps scarier to many people is that SIM cards can be used to steal data from you.
Your name, phone number, and other personal tidbits are all tied to your phone account.
That means someone who steals your SIM card can potentially get their hands on all of your personal info tied to the account.
They can then use that stolen information to try to steal your identity or cause all kinds of other problems for you.
It doesn’t stop there.
SIM cards can store pictures.
So can cloud services run or verified by your phone company.
That means that a stolen SIM card can be used to steal pictures that you save on your phone.
For some, that’s not a big deal. For others, it can be devastating.
SIM card attacks have been used to steal and leak photos from many celebrity devices.
We’re not done.
Your SIM card can also store contacts.
The number of contacts will vary by SIM card, but in general, the people you talk to the most are likely to be on the card.
First, this gives hackers a foothold to try to attack your friends and family, as it can match names and phone numbers.
It also provides a new avenue for scams.
The hackers have your phone number and your contacts.
They can try to pose as you in order to scam your friends and family.
Lastly, your SIM card provides access to your messages.
A hacker can use the card to read your texts and listen to your voicemails.
That provides even more information that they can try to leverage into additional attacks.
The amount of data that is accessible via a stolen SIM card is staggering.
#3 Bypass Security Features
Unfortunately, everything you just read is small potatoes.
The biggest threat of a stolen SIM card is that it allows hackers to get past all of the security features on just about all of your digital accounts.
Think about it.
What do you do when you forget your password for something?
You reset it, and in order to do that, you are sent an authentication text message.
If someone has access to your SIM card, they receive the authentication text.
A hacker can use this to reset any account with your name on it.
What’s worse is that almost every account system is encouraging two-factor authentication.
Overall, it’s a much better and more secure way to protect accounts.
But, when your SIM card is compromised, two-factor authentication works against you.
Hackers can use your SIM to gain full access to online services, such as banking.
They can drain your accounts. They can take out credit cards in your name.
They can steal just about anything they want from you, all from a stolen SIM card.
How Can You Protect Against SIM Card Attacks? (3 Measures)
So far, this all sounds terrifying, and the potential of SIM card attacks really is frightening.
But, you don’t hear about endless attacks and everyone losing all of their money and accounts to these kinds of attacks.
Why is that?
Well, it’s not all hopeless.
First, the institutions that run all of those accounts have a lot of security investments that protect you more often than not.
Also, there are things you can do to increase your own digital security.
If you know the tricks of the trade, then a stolen or hacked SIM card can be mitigated and controlled quickly.
Because of all of this, SIM attacks have mixed success. They represent a serious threat, but one that can be managed.
Here is what you can personally do to help your own cause and defend against these attacks.
#1 Report Missing SIM Cards Immediately
The very most important thing for you to do is report a missing SIM card immediately.
Your phone carrier can deactivate a SIM card remotely. Once they do, it can’t be used for any of the stuff mentioned above. The problem is contained.
If your SIM card goes missing, tell the phone company right away so they can kill it.
In addition to containing the situation, they can go through your records and help you assess the total damage done by the theft.
They can even review and forgive charges racked up on your line.
The second thing you need to do in this same vein is to pay attention to your account.
If you notice weird things with the phone line, such as premium charges or feature requests that you didn’t initiate, tell the carrier right away.
There are attacks that can steal your SIM information without physically stealing the card.
Any suspicious behavior is what will help you find these problems before they spiral out of control.
Perhaps the biggest tell is if you notice an account requesting a password reset that you didn’t initiate.
If it uses two-factor authentication via your phone and succeeds, it’s very likely that your SIM card has been compromised.
Tell your carrier so they can kill that SIM and get you a new one.
#2 Add a PIN to Your Account
One of the major security threats regarding SIM cards is that they don’t have to be physically stolen to be abused.
There are hacks and remote attacks that can clone a SIM card and leave you in this same area of risk without you having any reason to suspect an attack.
Even constant vigilance on your accounts won’t fully protect you.
Fortunately, you can take a simple step to add a layer of security that thwarts the majority of these attacks.
Add a PIN to your account.
Every major carrier offers this feature, and many of them recommend it.
The PIN number prevents anyone from using your SIM card (even if it is cloned remotely) to access anything tied to your account.
Even if they steal the SIM card and pop it in a new phone, they can’t get anything off of it without the PIN.
PIN numbers are not foolproof.
They can be cracked, but this extra layer of security buys you a lot of time to figure out that your SIM has been compromised, lost, or stolen before catastrophic fallout comes into play.
The most important thing to remember is that every extra level of challenge really does protect you.
Scams and virtual attacks are a numbers game.
The people doing them usually are trying to make money, and they get the most for their effort by sticking to easy prey.
If you protect yourself even a little, many will decide that you aren’t worth the effort.
#3 Practice Digital Safety
In the end, being safe online and in the digital world is something you should always practice.
When it comes to SIM cards, one of the most common attacks is disguised as a text message.
You get the new message, open it and tap the link.
That leads to a download that installs malicious software on the phone and steals SIM card information.
If you’re discerning about tapping links in unknown text messages, you have already won half the battle.
An even more common way to steal SIM cards is with social engineering.
Hackers find personal information on you and use it to convince the phone company to send them a new SIM card.
This gives them everything they need for all of the scary stuff you read about, and they never had to directly attack you at all.
Theoretically, phone companies have systems in place to prevent this, but this kind of attack still happens.
In a high-profile case, Jack Dorsey had his Twitter account hacked by people who used this method to get their hands on his SIM card.
Everything you can do to protect your digital privacy helps to mitigate this kind of risk.
As you remain more anonymous online, you become harder to find and attack in the first place.