6 key statistics that explain why SIM swap fraud is an urgent problem

June 9, 2021
Paul McGuire
Co-founder, CEO at tru.ID

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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SIM swap – also known as SIMjacking or SIM hijacking – is a way to take over a victim’s mobile phone number in order to perform an account takeover. Because most account security measures require an SMS to be sent to verify the user, if a fraudster is able to intercept that SMS, they can change the user’s account password and steal all their money. You can learn more about how SIM swap actually works here.

Although SIM swap fraud is a growing problem with serious financial consequences, many people don’t know just how prevalent it has become. We’ve compiled six key facts and statistics on SIM swap – and what mobile apps and platforms can do to prevent it.

  1. Last year, SIM swap criminals stole more than $100million in the USA: Eight people from the UK and several from other European countries have been arrested in connection with a crime ring that targeted thousands of US victims in 2020. The victims reportedly included sports personalities, online influencers, famous musicians and their families. 
  1. A 15-year-old stole nearly $24million from a single victim: Teenage ‘evil genius’ Ellis Plinsky and a team of collaborators stole $23 million in cryptocurrency from Michael Terpin in 2018 – achieving the feat by performing SIM swap fraud and then intercepting authentication messages in order to access Terpin’s digital wallet.
  1. Incidents doubled in the last year: In the UK, Action Fraud received nearly twice as many reports of SIM swap fraud in the first half of 2020 as the same period in the previous year. £483,000 was stolen from British victims in this period.

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  1. It’s not just a pandemic trend: SIM swap fraud reports have increased by a massive 400% in the past five years overall, according to Which? (a UK consumer watchdog).
  1. Four out of five SIM swap attempts are successful: Researchers at Princeton University found that major US carriers were using insecure authentication, allowing a potential attacker to make a SIM swap even if they failed numerous challenges. 
  2. Nobody is safe: The average amount stolen in the UK last year was around £2,500 – it’s not just celebrities and crypto millionaires; everyone with money in their account is now at risk. Financial gain is the biggest motivation for SIM swap, so fraudsters tend to target victims with savings or investments they can make hasty withdrawals from in large amounts.

The good news: there’s now an easy way for businesses to stop SIM swap fraud

tru.ID provides an easy-to-implement API-based solution – find out more here.

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