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SIM card swapping

If you have a cell phone, you could be susceptible to a growing trend: SIM card swapping. 

It's becoming increasingly popular among hackers as a way to gain access to your social media, calendar, bank account -- and even your location. 

Seattle-based entrepreneur Gregg Bennett learned that the hard way this past spring. One minute, everything was fine. The next, Bennett couldn't access any of his email accounts. 

He had been locked out of everything:

"They got into my Amazon account, my Evernote account, my Starbucks account. They were just messing with me," said Bennett. 

Within five minutes, Bennett's bank account and a cryptocurrency account --- valued at $900,000 -- were targeted. 

"I was flabbergasted. How could this possibly happen?" he said.

So, how does it happen?

Hackers can accomplish this in several ways.

They can send an SMS text which, if opened, includes a spyware link code that exposes your accounts.  

The bad guys can also call your phone carrier, claiming they lost their SIM card, and request a replacement be sent to them. Your real SIM is then deactivated, but all the information is migrated onto the new SIM, which is now in the hackers' hands. 

From there, they can reset any password that's linked to your phone number. 

"We have tied our identity to our phone numbers in a very significant way over the last five years to ten years," said tech expert Vijay Esposito. 

How can you protect yourself?

Consider adding a PIN code to your SIM card.  Should any hacker try to make changes to your SIM, they would need the PIN. 

First, know the PIN number given to you by your network provider. On an Android device, access the PIN under Settings > Lock screen and security > Other security settings > Set up SIM card lock.  Then slide to Lock the SIM card. 

If you have an iPhone, you can access the PIN under Settings > Cellular > SIM PIN. 

On an iPad, go to Settings > Mobile Data > SIM PIN. Enter your existing PIN to confirm, and the SIM lock will be activated.

If you have been locked out of your accounts and your SIM card compromised, contact your cell phone carrier. 

See more information from the FTC here.

Colorado Springs / Local News

Heather Skold

Heather is the evening anchor for KRDO. Learn more about Heather here.