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Thousands of dollars drained from bank accounts after fraudsters steal mobile numbers

05 February 2019

Consumers are reporting having their bank accounts drained by fraudsters and their email inboxes accessed in the latest scam involving theft of mobile numbers. These issues are highlighted in the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s Systemic Spotlight, “Reducing fraudsters’ theft of mobile numbers”, published today (Wednesday 6 February, 2019).

The Systemic Spotlight reveals how fraudsters steal a consumer’s mobile number by convincing the mobile service provider to switch the number to a new SIM card in the fraudster’s possession (known as “SIM swaps”). Once a fraudster has access to a consumer’s mobile number they can use it to access the consumer’s bank account, emails, and other online accounts.  

In publishing the Systemic Spotlight, Ombudsman Judi Jones said, “Fraudsters are developing new ways to collect personal information about a consumer – accessing social media profiles, posing as telemarketers, or sending deceptive emails. They use this information to impersonate consumers, deceive mobile service providers, and steal consumer’s mobile numbers.  

“The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s Systemic Investigation Team noticed a trend of complaints in 2018 about mobile service providers who had a low bar for consumer identity verification. We have been working with these providers to address these problems and help prevent future complaints.”

Since the Telecommunication Industry Ombudsman started to work with the providers on this issue, they have introduced new security procedures including two-factor authentication. We welcome the industry’s continued work towards consistently robust identity verification procedures. It is important to ensure these procedures keep up with evolving technological risks.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has also published a guidance note about how our office handles complaints about unauthorised SIM swaps.

What consumers should do if their mobile number is stolen?

If you find your service is suddenly disconnected or receive notification about a SIM swap you didn’t authorise, you may be a victim of mobile number theft. We suggest you:

  • Contact your bank or financial services provider immediately and explain that your mobile number has been taken. Ask them to check for any withdrawals or unusual transactions on your account.
  • Contact your mobile service provider and ask them to get your number back.
  • Contact IDCARE, Australia and New Zealand’s national identity and cyber support service at www.idcare.org or via phone on 1300 432 273.
  • If fraud or theft has occurred, contact the police.

For unresolved complaints about financial institutions, contact the Australian Financial Complaints Authority at www.afca.org.au or via phone 1800 931 678.

If you have a complaint about how your mobile service provider dealt with a SIM swap, contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman at www.tio.com.au or via phone on 1800 062 058.

How consumers can protect against the theft of their mobile numbers

The more publicly available your personal information is, the more susceptible you are to mobile number theft. To protect yourself, we suggest you:

  • Don’t respond to emails asking for your bank account details, phone number and personal details.
  • Don’t respond to any caller who asks for access to your computer. Don’t give them any passwords or other information. Hang up.
  • Don’t click on links in emails or text messages saying you have won a prize or have a message, particularly if you don’t know the sender.
  • Reduce disclosure of personal details such as full name, mobile number and full date of birth online on social media, online dating websites or blogs. If you must enter these details, ensure they are hidden from public view.
  • Lock your letterbox. Fraudsters can gain personal information about you by physically stealing your mail.

Ways mobile service providers can strengthen identity verification procedures

  • Allowing customers to set up PINs on their telco accounts.
  • Enhancing the customer authentication steps before customers can make a transaction by requiring customers to provide an additional form of ID as well as full name, date of birth and mobile number.

Introducing two-factor authentication by sending customers one time PIN numbers through SMS or email for all high risk transactions such as SIM swaps.

Ends

NOTES TO EDITORS:

For all media enquiries please contact Sarah Carnovale on 0437 548 540 or mediaenquiries@tio.com.au

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman provides a free and independent dispute service for small business and residential consumers who have an unresolved complaint about their telephone or internet service in Australia.

Residential consumers and small businesses should contact www.tio.com.au or 1800 062 058.

The Telecommunications Industry Sector

The Telecommunications industry regulators are the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) http://www.acma.gov.au Media enquiries to 02 9334 7719, 0434 652 063 or media@acma.gov.au and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) https://www.accc.gov.au Media enquiries to 1300 138 917, media@accc.gov.au After hours 0408 995 408.

Government and the regulators set policy and regulations for the telecommunications sector.

Communications Alliance is the peak body for Australian communications industry http://www.commsalliance.com.au Media enquiries to Sefiani Communications, (www.sefiani.com.au) 61 431 478 558.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) is Australia’s peak communications consumer organisation representing individuals, small businesses and not-for-profit groups as consumers of communications products and services. http://accan.org.au/index.php Media enquiries to 0409 966 931 or 02 9288 4000.

Excess data charges

Excess data charges

An received a bill with $3,200 in excess data charges, but didn’t believe she had actually exceeded her data limit.

Next step?              

  • make an online complaint
  • 1800 062 058                
  • Write PO Box 276
    Collins Street West Vic 8007                            
  • National Relay Service Call on 1800 555 677 then ask for 1800 062 058            
  • Fax our consumer complaint form to 1800 630 614