Police warn of cell phone SIM card swap scam

OTTAWA — Ottawa police are warning residents of a SIM card scam making the rounds.

“The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) Fraud Unit is advising the community of recent scams involving SIM card swapping,” the OPS released in a statement today (Dec. 5). “This is a scam that is affecting consumers all over North America.”

A fraudster, armed with personal information about a targeted victim, will call the victim’s cell phone provider.  They will have enough information about the victim to convince the cell phone provider that they are the targeted victim.  They will then ask to cancel the victim’s cell phone account and have the number transferred to another cell phone provider (this is a process called porting).

They will then set up an account with the new service provider and be able to use the victim’s cell phone number with that new provider.  As many online apps and accounts use a text message to re-set passwords, the fraudster will then attempt to re-set the victim’s password on their email, bank accounts, store accounts, rewards accounts and social media accounts.  They will then proceed to access whatever funds and goods are available.  This will generally happen very quickly.

How to protect yourself:

  • Speak to your cell phone service provider about extra security measures you can put on your cell phone account
  • Don’t respond to “phishing” emails that ask you personal information or ask for passwords to your accounts
  • Avoid posting personal information on line such as your SIN, date of birth, address, family tree information, pet’s name, etc.
  • Don’t use the same password for every online account you have 
  • If you lose cell phone service, call your service provider and your bank immediately

The Canadian Bankers Association has an excellent article about SIM swapping here: https://cba.ca/sim-swap-scam.

For more information on this and other frauds, please follow @FraudOttawa on twitter or visit our website for more tips https://www.ottawapolice.ca/en/about-us/Frequently-Asked-Questions-about-Fraud.aspx.