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SIM Swapping Scams Steal 700,000 Euros from Greek Cell Phone Users

Αssociated Press

(AP Photo/Altaf Qadri, File)

ATHENS – Reflecting the growing dangers of electronic devices in the digital age where hackers abound and cybersecurity risks are everywhere, a scheme swapping SIM cards from Greek mobile phone users has reportedly robbed 700,000 euros ($820,698.)

That was done in only 40 attacks so far this year, said Kathimerini, detailing the scam in which service providers are tricked into transferring a subscriber’s telephone number to a SIM card controlled by someone else. 

Once the hijacker has access to the SIM, the new device can be used to reset passwords and access online bank accounts from the unsuspecting users, the method apparently even bypassing security systems such as using VPN's.

One victim in the northern Greek town of Xanthi told the newspaper how he lost his signal before trying to restart his phone. By the time he had switched it back on again, 10,150 euros ($11,900) had been moved out of his bank account.

The bank, however, has not yet told the victim if the money will be returned. “I am annoyed at the bank,” he said. “I have taken a loan from them and I have always been consistent with my obligations.”

Nor was it reported whether the service providers who were tricked into giving away the information would hold the users harmless and compensate them for the losses, nor were they identified by the paper. 

The scam also reveals the dangers of banking by phone and having your bank's app where it can be opened and their accounts quickly pilfered.