What is the ‘SIM swap’ scam, how many TSB customers are affected and how can you protect yourself?

FRAUDSTERS are using a frightening new sim swapping scam to intercept text messages from your bank and use them to steal your cash.

Many TSB customers have become a victim of this type of fraud amid the chaos caused by a botched IT upgrade that left 1.9million customers unable to use online banking.

If your phone network goes down unexpectedly then you may be a victim of a sim swap scam
Getty – Contributor

Sim swap fraud is different to a phishing scam where fraudsters trick you into handing over your bank details and passwords via a link to a dodgy website.

Instead, fraudsters target your mobile network provider in order to trick them into swapping your phone number on to a card controlled by the hackers.

It’s a nasty and scary scam but there are things you can do to protect your account.

Here’s what you need to look out for and what to do if you feel your details have fallen into the wrong hands:

What is a sim swap scam?

Fraudsters use this kind of scam when they already have access to your online banking, but can’t transfer any money out of the account.

This is because banks often use two-step authentication when you’re setting up a new payee.

Fraudsters intercept text messages from your bank and use the information to hack your account
Getty – Contributor

This is normally a unique code that is sent to your nominated phone number – the number you chose to be associated with your bank – so that you can enter it in to your online banking to complete the transaction.

To get access to your phone, fraudsters convince your mobile phone network provider to swap your number on to a new sim card that the scammers control.

They know what network you’re with because they can see the bills you pay from your account.

Different networks ask for different information to make the swap, but some only require your phone number and the serial number of the new sim.

It can take up to 24 hours to move your number from one sim to another but it can be much quicker.


IF you notice that your phone has unexpectedly lost all signal then you should contact your network provider straight away.

They may be able to block the swap before it is moved on to the scammer’s sim card.

Don’t turn your phone off if you’re getting a lot of nuisance calls because this can be a tactic used by scammers to make the process easier.

Again, you should call your network provider as soon as you can.

Check your online banking too and look out for any payments that have been made without your authorisation.

Contact your bank too so that they can temporarily lock the account while you change your passwords.

The fraudsters then intercept your messages and use the code to illegally transfer your money out of your account.

But normally, banks can detect the fraudulent activity and stop it from going any further as long as you have the account.

How many TSB customers have been affected?

It’s not clear on exactly how many TSB customers have become a victim of this kind of fraud, but it seems like scammers have been taking advantage of vulnerable customers amid the chaos.

Rupert Jones – not his real name – from Essex, was left with just 66p in his current account and even watched the criminals drain the money from his account via TSB’s mobile app.

He became aware of problems with his account when his mobile firm alerted him that his password had been changed.

Another TSB customer, Charlie Sweeney, 53, from Ayrshire, had £2,500 stolen by hackers after they illegally switched his mobile number.

Distressed customers have been contacting The Sun to tell them that they also had money stole from their accounts after their network went down.

How can I protect myself?

Many network providers have information on how to prevent yourself becoming a victim of this fraud available online.

Make sure you have a unique and secure password set up with your mobile phone account, regularly changing them to ones you haven’t used before.

This makes it harder for fraudsters to keep hold of your log in details.

According to EE, they “generally only see these cases with banks that reply on SMS”, so it’s worth finding out if your bank lets you use two-factor authentications via mobile apps and devices.

Be alert. If you notice that your phone has unexpectedly lost signal, contact your network provider as soon as you can.

Also be aware that if you’re getting a lot of nuisance calls then this could be a tactic used by fraudsters to make you turn off your phone, which makes the sim swap easier.

How to protect yourself from scams

SCAMMERS are becoming increasingly clever to trick customers into transferring them money or giving away their personal information. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

  • Never give out personal or financial information on the phone or by email. Your bank, the police or any other organisation will never ask you for these in full
  • Never allow someone remote access to your computer following a cold call
  • Don’t rely on caller ID – numbers can be spoofed by fraudsters to make it look like they’re calling from a trusted number
  • Your bank, the police or any other company, will never call to ask you to transfer your money out of your account for security reasons
  • Be wary of all cold calls claiming to be from banks, police, or other trusted organisations – if you have any concerns, call back on an independently verified number
  • If you have fallen victim to a scam, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040

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