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How to Protect Your SIM Card and Phone Number

Hackers are increasingly trying to take over phone numbers to target email and banking accounts. Here's how to stop them.

Hackers are increasingly trying to take over phone numbers to target email and banking accounts. Here's how to stop them.

This short video and explainer is summarized from The Motherboard Guide to Not Getting Hacked , our comprehensive guide to digital security.


Your phone number is quickly becoming the key to your digital identity: your email, banking, and social media accounts are likely all linked to it. So hackers are increasingly trying to take over people’s numbers by directly hijacking their SIM cards. These kind of attacks, known as “SIM swapping” or “SIM hijacking,” allow hackers to take over your cellphone number, and in turn anything that’s connected to it.

The way these attacks work is hackers call up your cellphone provider and trick them into thinking they are you—a method known as “social engineering”—in order to get a new SIM card linked to your account.

These attacks can be prevented, or at least made much harder, by setting up a phone password. This is essentially a unique password or phrase that you are required to provide when you call your provider’s customers’ support. Most US carriers now offer this option. Motherboard confirmed that Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and U.S. Cellular all give customers this option. Verizon and U.S. Cellular have made this mandatory, according to their spokespeople.
Call your provider and ask them to set this up for you.

This will make it extremely hard for the bad guys to steal your number.