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As India leaps towards its biggest countrywide 5G operations, several threat groups are attempting to use this opportunity to scam Indian telecom users via 5G SIM cards. Telecom providers will have a hard time as SIM frauds are expected to reach their peak soon. On October 1, 2022, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the 5G services in the country with an aim to provide high-speed internet for mobile phone users. Once India adopts this new technology, several scams are expected to take place within the transition period.
Most noticeable, SIM swap frauds will see a steep rise as the country transitions from 4G to 5G services. Since India uses 22 telecom circles with multiple licensed operators in each region, the sheer amount of tracking the SIM frauds will take a toll on the authorities as well as the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal.
India’s cyber and privacy advocate, Dr Prashant Mali shed light on 5G SIM frauds warning people of the upcoming scammers who will send messages with links/phone numbers urging individuals to click/call to upgrade their SIM to 5G.
India upgrades to 5G, but will it sustain amid the rise in 5G SIM frauds
SIM swapping, a hacking method, is expected to expand with the coming of 5G as more people would want to upgrade to a 5G network adding to the scams already existing in India. The hackers can bait telecom users via calls, messages, and other phishing mediums while approaching telecom service providers to activate a new SIM card on the same number.
In other words, the scammer could take over the victim’s SIM card and use it to perform several fraudulent activities, which will be registered under the original owner’s name — giving all the blame to the owner, and even stealing their online identity and banking information.
5G is believed to be ten times faster than 4G and offers higher download speeds, lower latency, and better coverage for urban and remote geolocations. However, as tempting as it sounds, it has its own disadvantages stemming from the people who commit fraud in the Indian telecom system. The infamous 2G spectrum case of 2007 is a prime example of how telecom scroungers used new technology for financial gains while destroying the entirety of the initiative’s primary goal.
According to a report by The Economic Times, SIM swapping fraud is expected to increase rapidly after the launch of 5G in India. Once customers start updating their previous SIM cards to 5G networks, hackers would use this opportunity to perform various crimes, including threat actors taking control of banking information and other important data. The need to create awareness among customers about a potential 5G scam will require tremendous effort by the government, private telecom providers, and Indian authorities.
Mitigation techniques for upcoming 5G SIM frauds
Though there is not a single fix for any scam, experts have advised Indian telecom users to be aware of the 5G scam, where hackers will lure them into revealing their information while pretending to be telecom providers. Once they have the victim’s data, they will reach out to the telecom provider while taking on the victim’s identity. After issuing a new SIM card based on the information they dug out from the victims, the old SIM card would be deactivated. This will also trigger a nullification of all the communication access to the old SIM card, as the customer will be unable to make calls or text messages with it.
This allows the scammers to access the user’s bank accounts using OTP (one-time password), social media accounts, OTT subscriptions, and other online accounts where a phone number is used for logging in. Once they have access to the accounts, the scammers could steal funds from the banks, download sensitive customer data, and run campaigns to blackmail the victim into a ransom.
Dr. Prashant Mali shared some quick mitigation techniques that can be employed to avoid scammers while converting to 5G networks. Here are the three safe ways to upgrade SIM cards to 5G without falling prey to 5G scammers.
- Do not click on links or phone numbers that look suspicious.
- Visit the official service provider store and upgrade the SIM offline.
- Follow the instructions given by the official app/website of the service provider.
All telecom carriers periodically send out messages to customers to be wary of demands for personal and financial information from unidentified numbers or businesses. They also notify about the platform that customers can use to submit requests for SIM swaps or upgrades. However, the need for a better understanding of 5G SIM frauds can save millions of victims and prevent the depletion of hundreds and thousands of funds from the bank accounts of Indian telecom users.