Criminals take over family’s Cricket account and drain their bank and investment apps

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We’ve been trying to warn you about how real the threat of SIM Swapping is. By obtaining a SIM connected to your mobile account, a thief can use a burner phone, insert the SIM card, and take over your apps including financial apps. As a result, these criminals will drain your bank accounts, and max out your credit cards. It’s scary, to be sure. On Thursday, Chicago’s WLS television station ran a report about a whole family whose Cricket Wireless account consisting of five phones was taken over and money was stolen from the family’s financial apps.

The family’s Cricket Wireless account was the subject of a SIM Swap

Cricket says that the family, who wished to remain anonymous, was another victim of a SIM Swap and even now, four months after their wireless service was hijacked, the family is still feeling the effects of the crime. Cricket is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) owned by AT&T and while it doesn’t own any wireless networks of its own, Cricket customers use AT&T’s network for voice and data.

Cricket says that it does have measures designed to prevent SIM Swaps “and we work closely with law enforcement, our industry, and consumers to help prevent this type of crime. We take these matters seriously.” The victims of this SIM Swap are a man named Mike, his wife, and his family who live in the suburbs of Chicago. 

Each day, one of their five phones would get disconnected from the family’s Cricket Network and go into what Mike called “SOS mode.” This refers to the SOS icon that appears in the upper right corner of an iPhone that is not connected to a wireless service. Mike said that the phones could not make or take calls, and send or receive texts.

Mike and his wife are blocked from their Amazon and social media accounts. Talking about his wife’s phone, Mike said, “They actually physically got into her phone. We know this because of the fact that apps were added onto her phone that she didn’t add, contact numbers were changed to friends and family. Contacts were added into her phone. We must have had easily 100 account passwords changed.”

The couple is also locked out of their Robin Hood investment account and their Coinbase crypto account where they had a total of $1,200. Another $2,000 in Apple Cash and Gift Cards stored on their phones were stolen. The thieves also attempted to transfer money out of their bank accounts. Mike said, “Luckily, we stopped it in time and they were able to stop that.”

The thieves pulled off the SIM Swap by obtaining the family’s Cricket Wireless PIN number

“It got down to, because they had access to our phones, they had, we had notes on our phone which contained our garage code information so they were able to open and close our garage if they wanted,” Mike added. He says that Cricket Wireless let him down. “We tried calling the Cricket Wireless customer service helpline. Every time we called, nobody can help us, nobody can do anything about it.”

The thieves were able to obtain a SIM card for Mike and his family because they had somehow obtained the family’s Cricket Wireless PIN number which allowed them to request a new SIM card. Again, Mike comments about this by stating, “This PIN code is what they said is what the person used to gain access into the phone, so consequently they said it was my fault that, somehow, the PIN code was used to obtain access into that account. There’s no way that somebody could have gained a PIN code from me. It wasn’t written anywhere, nobody knew it but me.”

Here’s a suggestion. Change the PIN you use for your wireless account often. Don’t use a birth date or something that a thief could figure out. Cricket says that it is “building tools to make it harder for someone to pretend to be you,” and that it’s “training employees to recognize fraud attempts,” and “developing enhanced authentication methods.”

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