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SIM Swap Fraud is Preventable – Why Aren’t More Companies Doing Something About It?

February 5, 2020
mobile authentication, psd2, sca, two factor authentication, identity verification

By now, you might already know that SIM swap fraud is a major problem that can’t be ignored. It’s on most fraud executives’ radars, not to mention in the news nearly every other week. According to the Wall Street Journal, investigators say they know of more than 3,000 SIM-jacking victims, accounting for $70 million in losses nationwide (the real numbers are likely much higher considering that many cases go unreported).

Congress is also getting involved to battle this epidemic. Earlier this month, Senator Ron Wyden published a letter to FCC chairman Ajit Pai calling on him to take action to protect consumers against number porting (a.k.a. SIM swap) scams. In Canada, the CRTC also issued a similar letter to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association echoing these concerns. On top of all this, Princeton just released a study finding that top U.S. mobile carriers were vulnerable to SIM swapping tactics.

Now you know that SIM swap fraud is a serious threat to you, your company, and your customers.

 

What you might NOT KNOW is that there is an effective, easy-to-implement way to prevent SIM swap fraud that also improves the customer experience.

 

A different way of looking at SIM swap fraud

The focus of the Princeton study, Senator Wyden’s letter, and really most of what has been written on the internet about SIM swap fraud has been the role that mobile carriers play in attackers carrying out fraud. As evidenced in these writeups, the step where hackers dupe customer service agents into swapping their SIMs is vital to the attack being successful. But it’s also very difficult to prevent because it involves humans, and specifically customer service agents, who are trained to be as helpful as possible. But upon further inspection, this step is not where the actual damage is done.

In most cases, the actual damage – theft of funds, hijacking of a social media account, or theft of cryptocurrency – occurs after the fraudster actually goes to log into the victim’s accounts using the phone number he has just taken over. So technically, just taking over your phone number is not enough. In order to really inflict damage, a fraudster also needs to log into your accounts.

An opportunity to stop SIM swap fraud in its tracks

This is where Payfone’s patented Phone Intelligence comes into play. When the fraudster goes to log into the victim’s account, the business (whether it be a bank, crypto platform, social media platform, or other kind of enterprise) can use Phone Intelligence to detect that a SIM swap has taken place and block the fraudster from taking nefarious actions.

Consider this scenario involving a cryptocurrency exchange:

1) Fraudster steals username/password of victim and logs into cryptocurrency exchange.
2) Fraudster takes over victim’s phone number through a SIM swap attack.
3) With Payfone enabled, the cryptocurrency exchange can call our APIs to see if a SIM swap has occurred on that account.
4) If a SIM swap has occurred, the cryptocurrency exchange routes the user to further inspection before granting them access to the account.
5) Because accounts can be locked before any damage can be done, the cryptocurrency exchange is able to shut down hackers before they can do harm, safeguarding their users’ cryptocurrency.

Why CX and digital executives should also take note

From a customer experience standpoint, Phone Intelligence has the additional benefit of creating a more seamless experience for legitimate users. Since many SIM swaps are legitimate (in 2018, there were 90 million ports and 100 million device upgrades in the U.S.), simply detecting SIM swaps and hitting anyone who has swapped their SIM with a ton of friction can be significantly damaging to your customers’ experience and, in turn, customer satisfaction. Enterprises must be careful not to slow down the experience for customers who may have legitimately ported their numbers or upgraded their devices. By analyzing the contextual behavior and time of a SIM swap, Payfone provides a more sophisticated and nuanced approach to thwarting SIM swap fraud. As a result, you can offer a faster and easier experience for good customers while identifying potential bad actors and subjecting them to further inspection.

It’s also important to note that customers of businesses who do not use Payfone have to jump through considerable hoops if they want to go the DIY route to protect themselves against SIM swap fraud. There are numerous articles that give recommendations on how to do this (calling your mobile carrier, setting up a pincode, then setting up a longer 16-digit pincode, etc.) but not only is this time-consuming, these precautions are totally ineffective when hackers break directly into telecom companies to swap SIMs.

The Bottom Line: Implementing technology that not only safeguards your customers against SIM swap attacks but also betters their experience is an investment. However, it’s an investment that can not only help you avoid losing customers, but also to attract new customers by differentiating your company as one that cares about their security, convenience, and experience.

Want to learn more about protecting your company against SIM swap fraud while also improving your customer experience? Request a free consultation below.