WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — If your cell phone suddenly loses service, it may not be a reception issue – but something more sinister.
Hackers are gaining access to personal information through SIM card hijacking.
SIM cards are what connects cell phones to the wireless network, and every SIM card has a unique number.
Hackers have been caught using a wireless phone number, contacting that customer’s cell phone carrier and impersonating them, convincing the company to issue a new SIM card number for the wireless phone number, activating it, then taking control of the number and data.
Once the hacker gets in, they can steal personal information found in emails and bank account applications on a cell phone.
To the victim, it looks like you’ve lost reception.
“So what it looks like to you is you’ve lost service and what happens to them is they now have gained service and anything someone sends you a text, [the hacker] gets it,” said C. Matthew Curtin, founder of Interhack.
Cases have happened across the country, and a man from Florida was arrested last summer for SIM card hacking.
In July of 2018, Ricky Handschumacher, 25, of Port Richey, was arrested and charged with grand theft and money laundering.
Police say Handschumacher was part of a multi-state scheme to hijack phone numbers and steal hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies from victims.
When reached for comment, Handschumacher told CBS12 Investigates that he could not discuss his on-going case.
Security experts say these SIM card attacks succeed, in part, because of lax mobile authentication.
Curtin said instead of text message authentication, use an app called Google authenticator, which prompts you to use a code after inputting your username and password.
Users can also add a pin to their smart phone accounts, which creates another layer of protection.