Identity theft is on the rise. Here are some ways to protect yourself : NPR

NPR’s Michel Martin talks to Eva Velasquez, President and CEO of the Identification Theft Useful resource Middle, in regards to the rising menace of SIM swapping.


Should you’re one of many hundreds of thousands of individuals utilizing your smartphone to pay your payments, ship cash to household and simply do some banking, pay attention up. This month, the FBI issued a warning in regards to the rise in a kind of cell phone rip-off referred to as SIM swapping, saying it price customers greater than $68 million in losses simply final 12 months. And based on the FBI’s figures, it is 15 occasions extra more likely to occur to you right this moment than it was simply a few years in the past.

So what’s SIM swapping, and how will you shield your self? We referred to as Eva Velasquez for assist with this. She is the president and chief government officer on the Identification Theft Useful resource Middle. That is a non-profit whose objective is to assist customers cut back their danger of falling sufferer to identification theft. And she or he’s with us now. Eva Velasquez, thanks a lot for becoming a member of us.

EVA VELASQUEZ: I am so joyful to be right here, and I am glad we’re protecting this actually vital matter.

MARTIN: Nicely, to begin with, may you simply clarify simply what’s it? I imply, how are scammers stealing our info from the SIM playing cards in our smartphones?

MARTIN: Nicely, it’s considerably complicated. And simply to degree set right here, your SIM card is that tiny little microchip in your telephone and it tells your telephone what quantity it responds to. And there is numerous info in it, however it’s transferable to a different telephone, and that is how one can improve or purchase one other telephone if yours is broken and nonetheless maintain your telephone quantity, your images, you recognize, your music. However very similar to telephone quantity porting, SIM porting is – it is very easy to do if somebody apart from you possibly can persuade a mobile worker to assist them do it.

MARTIN: So this can be a rip-off directed at staff of cell provider firms? Or is that this a conspiracy during which they’re concerned?

VELASQUEZ: Nicely, you recognize, it may very well be each. We frequently do not know whether it is an insider menace the place an worker is concerned, however typically it is simply an worker attempting to supply good customer support and so they’re being socially engineered. So we have a tendency to take a look at the workers extra as an instrument of the rip-off somewhat than the perpetrators.

MARTIN: So the FBI says these SIM swap scammers netted greater than $68 million in 2021, which was up from nearly $4 million in 2020. How did this get to be so profitable and the way did they get all that cash? Like what did they do?

VELASQUEZ: Nicely, if we step again and simply have a look at all the fraud panorama and ecosystem, individuals ought to perceive that now we have had unprecedented charges of fraud throughout the board in all of our techniques, principally, for the reason that pandemic began. There have been simply quite a lot of new alternatives. There was much more cash in our techniques and much more vulnerabilities had been uncovered. So it would not shock me in any respect that we noticed a dramatic rise in this kind of fraud as a result of frankly, we noticed a dramatic rise in all varieties of fraud, significantly identification crimes, during the last two years, and we will proceed to see this kind of new baseline. It hasn’t gone down.

A number of of us suppose that, OK, the pandemic is, I will not say over, however we’re coming to the tip of it and so the fraud has waned. And whereas we aren’t on the peak numbers that we had been seeing in 2020 and 2021, now we have a brand new very excessive baseline and there is going to be a really lengthy tail on this fraud. Sadly, customers are those which might be going to need to take care of this on the finish of the day.

MARTIN: How do you take care of this? And I feel first, since you’ve got recognized staff of cell provider firms as being type of the – forgive me for utilizing this language – the weak hyperlink right here. How are the wi-fi carriers doing something to deal with this? After which in fact, I will ask you, is there something that customers can do themselves?

VELASQUEZ: Nicely, the truth is, in fact, the wi-fi carriers are implementing processes, similar to lots of our establishments are implementing extra anti-fraud processes. They do not need to be dropping these {dollars} and so they don’t need sad clients, both. I imply, that goes with out saying. However the significantly insidious a part of the SIM swapping menace is that it is – there’s little that a person can do proactively on that – for that specific problem. It is about detection and it is about performing in a short time.

So we actually encourage individuals, if something seems to be amiss and their telephone stops working, typically individuals will not discover instantly as a result of they’re at dwelling and their telephone is linked to their Wi-Fi community, and so they do not realize that they do not have that entry to that mobile account till they’re now not linked to Wi-Fi. However we do encourage individuals, for those who see any unusual exercise to take it significantly. And admittedly, this goes throughout the board. You realize, it would not matter if it is a bizarre cost in your bank card assertion, a notification from an organization that you simply do enterprise with, any of these indicators, please observe up instantly as a result of it could be indicative of a much bigger drawback.

MARTIN: And the way do you observe up?

VELASQUEZ: You’ll have to observe up immediately along with your cell provider. And the place that creates a problem is, usually individuals can’t get again into their account, so typically they can’t do that digitally. They really should go right into a retailer entrance and have that dialog.

MARTIN: That was Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identification Theft Useful resource Middle. That is a nonprofit whose objective is to assist customers cut back their danger of falling sufferer to identification theft. Eva Velasquez, thanks a lot for becoming a member of us and sharing this experience with us.


VELASQUEZ: Oh, I am joyful to be right here and keep secure on the market.

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