Sim Card Swapping Scam – Three easy steps to protect yourself

I just heard about a new scam that I want to make sure you aware of as well.  It’s called the Sim Card Swapping scam. This is when someone decides to target you (who knows why – your status? your wealth? your position in your community?) and takes over your cell phone number.  From there, they can take over your social media, gain access to your financial accounts accessed via your phone, and any number of any other nefarious acts.

How does this scam work?

The process is relatively simple.  The scammer enters the physical store of your cell phone provider, or they call the toll free number, pretending to be you.  Then they provide a forged license or other personal information. The scammer will say they lost their phone.  They say they already have a new phone; they just need your service provider to transfer all of the information from the “lost” phone onto the SIM card of the new phone.

sim card swapping scam

…. and Boom!  Just like that, they have access to all of your contacts, their phone numbers, affiliations, birthdays, and any personal information you have about each contact.  They also have access to any apps you’ve allowed from your phone. Do you have the Dropbox app installed on your phone?  Now they have access to all of those documents as well.  How about Amazon? Does the Amazon app have your credit card information stored? Sounds like a fun shopping spree…

I called my local AT&T store in Boulder, where I’ve been a customer for years and spoke with one of their floor representatives.  When I asked him about the SIM card swapping scam, he wasn’t aware that it was a problem.  He said that as long as you have a photo ID with the correct address, you should be able to gain access to your account. That didn’t give me a lot of confidence! I then asked him about the PIN that we set up a few years ago.  He indicated that if an account has a PIN set up, they will ask the customer for that number in addition to verifying name, address, and photo. I then asked what the maximum number of digits were for the PIN which he said was six.

How to protect yourself from the SIM card swapping scam:

In all likelihood, the vast majority of the public won’t be targeted. But if you are known in the crypto-currency community, are wealthy, or have a high profile in your town I would recommend that you be extra vigilant.  Regardless, I would recommend doing several things right away:

  • First, enable 2FA or two-factor authentication. In the past, I’ve talked about two-factor authentication and why it is so important. Try not to use “text message” as an option to confirm your identity. Set it up so that they need to call a land-line with the code, or send the code to an email address that is not set up on your cell phone.
  • Next, talk to your cell phone provider and make sure you have a PIN set up.  Make sure it is a long as they will allow.  (Note to self: Change AT&T PIN from four digits to six!)
  • Then, log out of all of your Social Media accounts on your phone.  Set it up so that you need to log in each time.  Remember to log out every time! (This is something that Chris does.  He has never downloaded the Facebook app to his phone.  Instead, he accesses Facebook via Safari and logs in/logs out each and every time.)

Here are some articles to learn more about SIM card swapping:

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Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.

I’ve created a Free Report on what to look for to protect yourself from “phishing” scams. Click here to receive it!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. Angie’s List and the BBB rate Geek For Hire very highly.  You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3 support) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!  Prime is usually $119/year, but you can try it for 30 days for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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What is the Cloud and how do I use it?

We’ve had several people ask us recently about the Cloud.  They’re not sure if they should use it, and they are especially not sure if they should trust it!

I’m here to say “YES!”, you can use it and you can trust it. But let’s go back a step or two.

What is the Cloud?

The term “cloud” is used to describe the nebulous place in the ether where you can store documents, files, movies, spreadsheets, and more. Essentially, it is online storage similar to an external hard drive, or a thumb drive. You use it in the exact same way: to store your files in a secure location. But don’t take my word for it.  Here’s a great description of the Cloud from PC Magazine:

“In the simplest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of your computer’s hard drive. The cloud is just a metaphor for the Internet. It goes back to the days of flowcharts and presentations that would represent the gigantic server-farm infrastructure of the Internet as nothing but a puffy, white cumulus cloud, accepting connections and doling out information as it floats.”

Here’s my little picture of how it works:

The Cloud
The Cloud on a post-it

How do I use the Cloud?

Use the Cloud the same way you would any storage device. Configure your account so that the documents you choose are uploaded, and so that any time you make changes to those documents, those changes are uploaded as well.  I have configured my account to upload photos I take on my smartphone up to my Dropbox account.

How much will it cost?

Many providers have a small “starter” program for free.  You can expect to store up to a gig or two for free. For many of us, though, that would cover maybe a few months of photos! Bigger plans are available based on the amount of data you want to store. For example, my Dropbox account is ten dollars a month for one terabyte. One terabyte is way more than I need, but it’s their smallest plan so that’s what I use.

Who do you use for Cloud storage?

I have used Dropbox for ten years, at least, and really like it.  Other providers include Amazon, iCloud, Google Drive.  Dropbox, and other providers, let you access your stored data from anywhere.  I can open a file on my phone when I’m out of town, or on my tablet.  I’ve even accessed and printed a document at a public library.  Talk about convenient!

Let us know if you need help setting up a Cloud account, especially if you want to make sure it uploads changes to any document in near real time.

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fifteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial  (Any links to products or services in this post may be affiliate links. If they are, we may receive a small commission when you click on it. Rest assured, your price will be the same!)

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Backing Up Your Data and The Cloud

It’s time again for my reminder about backing up your data!  For many people, when you travel, your laptop could get banged up at the airport or in the camper.  For others, summer is the season for extreme weather.  It could be fires or floods or tornadoes or hurricanes, but there is always the chance that your home could be damaged, and your computer as well.

That’s why it is so important to make sure your data back up is current.  The most convenient way to keep your data backed up is to use one of the Cloud backup services.  I’ve had many people ask what “the Cloud” is and how it might affect them.  The Cloud is a term used to describe using another company’s servers to store your data or to provide off-site computing.

Here’s a better definition from wiki:

Cloud computing, also known as on-the-line computing, is a kind of Internet-based computing that provides shared processing resources and data to computers and other devices on demand. It is a model for enabling ubiquitous, on-demand access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications and services), which can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort. Cloud computing and storage solutions provide users and enterprises with various capabilities to store and process their data in third-party data centers.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing

There are a many companies that provide cloud storage.  I’ve been using Dropbox for a number of years and like the simplicity of it.  (Disclaimer: if you use that link to sign up for backing up your data, you’ll get 500 mb for free, and I’ll receive 1g as a thank you from Dropbox.)   https://db.tt/0ZRkMXZ

backing up your data

I like Dropbox for a number of reasons:

  • It will automatically upload a file to the cloud every time I make a change to it.
  • I’ve set it up so that it uploads photos I take on my phone to my account.
  • I can open files on my iPhone and iPad when I’m away from my computer.
  • Dropbox stores data for several weeks.  If I get a bad virus, I can ask them to restore my data to a particular date.

All of this enthusiasm about cloud storage for backups aside, it’s also important to keep a physical copy of your data.  About once a month, I backup my data to an external hard drive.  Chris has set me up with the Seagate Backup 2TB Portable External Hard Drive which is convenient and easy to use.

If you need help backing up your data, let us know!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

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