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How Hacker Stole Man’s $24,500 In Savings Using ‘SIM Swapper’ Attack

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An unexpected email prompted Darren Rowell to run to a Wells Fargo location to stop a wire transfer he did not authorise, but Rowell was unable to outwit the scammer.

“Seven minutes later, the wire actually went through,” he said. “$24,500 was taken out of my savings.”

Following the November event, Rowell filed a claim with Wells Fargo and called Castle Rock Police. According to police documents, a Castle Rock Police investigator wrote that Rowell could have been the victim of a “SIM clone attack” or a “SIM swapping” incident.

The attack is carried out as follows: A scammer, who may already have your personal information, calls your telephone carrier pretending to be you. The scammer will persuade the staff to transfer your phone number to their SIM card.

Once the hacker has moved your phone number to their cellphone SIM card, they effectively control your phone number. If you utilize SMS to validate your bank login, they can reset your banking passwords.

“I don’t know what I could have done. But I did the right thing. I immediately went to the branch to stop the wire. And it was gone so fast. It was the blink of an eye,” Rowell said.

The investigator also stated that Rowell’s funds were transferred to a “money mule” account, which had previously stolen funds from two other Wells Fargo clients in California and North Carolina.

Castle Rock Police have closed their investigation as of this publishing due to “little to no success in solvability.” According to the investigator, the swindle most likely took place outside of the country.

The FBI issued an advisory in 2022 indicating that it got roughly a hundred complaints per year concerning “SIM swapping,” but complaints soared to more than 1,600 in 2021.

What can you do to prevent SIM swapping?

According to Castilgiola, you can request that your financial institution utilize an app for two-factor authentication instead of standard text messaging. He stated that the secret code for the app would only be available on your phone.

You might also request a special pin from your cellphone provider so that only you can make changes to your account.

Some banks will additionally provide their customers with specialized hardware, such as a unique key that can be plugged into a USB port to validate your login.

Bank initially denied SIM swapping claim

According to records and letters provided by Rowell to 9NEWS, Wells Fargo likewise denied his allegation.

According to Rowell, the bank informed him that his username and password were used to initiate the wire transfer, which meant the corporation was not accountable for the loss.

After 9NEWS contacted Wells Fargo for comment, Rowell stated that the bank contacted him to inform him that his case had been “reopened.”

On Thursday, a Wells Fargo spokesman told 9NEWS via email that the business is currently investigating what happened and that customers should be vigilant of unexpected calls, texts, social media posts, or potential scam emails.

“We never want to see anyone become a victim of a scam and are actively working to raise awareness of common scams to help prevent these heartbreaking incidents.

It’s important for everyone to be vigilant and aware of common scams to avoid falling victim. Be wary of unexpected calls, texts, social media posts, or emails from scammers impersonating banks, tech support companies and government agencies. 

Don’t be afraid to end communication with the person who contacted you and take time to research,” said Wells Fargo in a statement.

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