TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Crooks are using SIM card swaps to steal your money through your cell phone, federal law enforcement officials warn.

It’s a scam FBI Special Agent Daniel Sirmons says he sees playing out across the country. He sat down with Investigator Shannon Behnken to explain how victims lost $68 million just last year – and how the crime is spreading.

“They’re essentially impersonating you,” Sirmons said. “They’re contacting your telecommunications provider. They’re providing enough PII of yours to the provider that they convince the provider that they are you.”

He says they will then request that a new SIM card be attached to your account.

“It happens to be a SIM card that they are in possession of in a phone – and that way once that transaction is completed, if the phone rings it’s going to ring on the phone the bad guy has,” Sirmons explained.

The FBI has warned of criminals gaining control of cell phone SIM cards from unknowing victims and steal their personal information, including bank account and financial app details. The scams netted criminals $68 million in 2021 alone, according to the FBI. The agency says it received more than 1,611 complaints. Compare that to $12 million in losses in 2018 to 2020.

The FBI is urging the public to be aware of suspicious emails and not to advertise investments in cryptocurrency or other financial assets.

“Once the SIM is swapped, the victim’s calls, texts and other data are diverted to the criminal’s device,” the FBI said. “This access allows criminals to send ‘Forgot Password’ or ‘Account Recovery’ requests to the victim’s email and other online accounts associated with the victim’s mobile telephone number.”

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