Brian Sims

Consumers warned of rise in social engineering attacks

CIFAS AND Mobile UK are warning consumers of the rise in social engineering attacks on mobile phone users ahead of the rumoured release of the latest iPhone by Apple later this month.

Attempts by criminals to impersonate genuine customers of phone companies and hijack their accounts have increased significantly in recent years. Facility takeover fraud, whereby an existing mobile phone account is taken over by a fraudster, has increased by 88% over the last three years in the telecommunications sector, with over 17,500 instances recorded in 2020.

To enable this crime, fraudsters use social engineering tactics to trick individuals out of their personal, banking and account details, often by impersonating mobile phone operators themselves and offering upgrades.

By asking victims for their details to pass a fake security check, criminals will attempt to engineer enough information out of an individual to be able to successfully impersonate them with the mobile phone company. Once they do this, fraudsters use this access to place orders for the newest phones.

New iPhone release

With rumours that Apple are to release the latest iPhone later on this month, Cifas and Mobile UK is warning consumers of the risk of fraud as criminals prepare to launch their attacks.

To further enable this crime, guides teaching other criminals how to conduct this fraud are available for sale on The Dark Web, with some even going further and offering to conduct the fraud on behalf of others for a fee.

In addition to contacting victims over the phone, reports have also been received of criminals using other communications methods such as WhatsApp and social media platforms, in order to impersonate mobile phone companies.

Members of the public are reminded to Take Five before parting with their personal and banking details. Scam texts can be forwarded to 7726, while phone numbers operating scam calls can be reported by texting ‘CALL’ to 7726 and following the prompts.

Risk to consumers

Commenting on the risk posed to consumers, Amber Burridge (Cifas’ head of fraud intelligence) said: “Criminals are always quick to take advantage of new opportunities, and they’ll certainly be looking to cash in from the excitement of the iPhone release. If you receive a call from someone purporting to be a mobile phone company offering you a new mobile phone or an upgrade, always be sceptical and challenge the caller. Never give away your personal details or a One Time Passcode if someone calls you unexpectedly. Don’t be afraid to hang up and call your mobile phone company back on a number you have researched yourself to ensure the offer is genuine.”

Gareth Elliott, head of policy and communications at Mobile UK, added: “Fraudsters are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their methods. As an industry, the mobile network operators and Mobile UK are committed to working to reduce the threat that fraudsters pose to the public. We urge customers to remain vigilant and to help us act by texting reports of nuisance SMS to 7726 and reporting any suspicious calls.”

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