Police warn of "SIM swap" scam after West Vancouver officer targeted

Dec 2 2019, 1:41 pm

West Vancouver Police are warning the public about what they say is an emerging scam, after one of their own officers was recently targeted.

Police said the scam, known as “SIM swapping,” involves criminals stealing personal information via mobile phones in order to gain access to bank accounts and other personal data.

Essentially, police said the scammer will impersonate a person and call a mobile service provider to request that their phone number be ported to a new SIM card. Often, the fraudster will say this is due to a lost or stolen phone.

The phone number is then ported to a new card, which allows the fraudster to link the victim’s number to a device that they now control.

At that point, the fraudster will download a series of popular apps (e.g., online banking, social media, email) and will select the “forgot password” button on all of them.

If an account is connected to a phone number or email address, via what is called two-factor authentication, the fraudster will receive a verification code on the new device.

They then use the code to confirm ownership of the account, create a new password, and take over the victim’s accounts.

From there, they gain direct access to personal information.

In the West Vancouver case, it was WVPD Const. Kevin Goodmurphy who was targeted.

And while no money or personal information was lost, Goodmurphy came “very close” to being defrauded of tens of thousands of dollars.

“This is an emerging fraud tactic and one that leaves the victim feeling quite vulnerable,” said Goodmurphy. “I can now speak from personal experience, and have learned that there are more protective measures that I could have implemented prior to my phone being compromised.”

In light of his personal experience, Goodmurphy along with the WVPD are offering a number of tips on how people can protect themselves from this particular fraud:

  • Keep all personal information personal. It is as simple as not publishing a date of birth on social media.
  • Do not answer phishing emails or text messages asking to confirm a password or update account information.
  • Use an offline password manager.
  • Contact a phone provider and ask about additional security measures that may be available.
  • If you lose mobile service on your device, contact a service provider immediately.

Anyone who believes they have fallen victim to this or any other scam can contact the West Vancouver Police non-emergency line at 604-925-7300. Those wishing to file a report anonymously can do so by contacting Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, or by leaving a tip online.