Hackers Drain Life Savings From 2 Women's Bank Accounts' in 'SIM Swapping' Scam

Scammers target the personal information on your cell phone in a new con known as "SIM swapping." There are things you can do to protect your phone and bank accounts.

Online banking is a breeze these days, with many people able to check their accounts straight from their cell phones. So imagine logging in one day and discovering your entire life savings is missing.

It happened to New York resident Jackie Berman, who says a hacker wiped out her Citibank savings account that had over $26,000 in it.

“It’s been really horrible — the entire experience,” Berman said.

TV executive Heidi Diamond says the same thing happened to her, with the scammers stealing over $200,000.

“I freaked, and I went running to the nearest bank,” Diamond said.

The women’s ordeals are two instances of a new scam known as SIM swapping.

It happens when hackers first steal your personal information online, then contact your mobile phone carrier and trick them into activating a SIM card. Once that occurs, the scammers can get control over your phone, passwords and pretty much everything else.

Pretending to be you, the scammer then contacts your bank and transfers all the cash out of your account

After Inside Edition contacted Citibank, things quickly changed — at least for Heidi Diamond.

“I do believe it’s thanks to Inside Edition I got my money back,” Diamond said. 

They cut her a check for the full amount she lost — all $200,025.

But Jackie Berman hasn't been as lucky. Four months after first reporting the fraud, she says she's still missing all that money.

“Citibank has now denied me not once, not twice, not three times, but five times. And every single time my heart stops, because I'm thinking, ‘How can they just think I'm just going to allow a criminal to have my $26,000?'” Berman said.

Though both women say their money was taken by a SIM scam, Citibank did not tell Inside Edition why Diamond’s money was returned while Berman's was not. The bank does say it has great sympathy for victims of fraud and claims it did everything possible to recover the funds taken from Berman, saying each case is different.

Citi's full statement to Inside Edition:

"Modern financial scams targeting Americas of all ages and backgrounds are sophisticated operations and we have a great deal of sympathy for those who fall victim to fraud. We have seen a growing number of scams, ranging from phishing texts, to robocalls and internet and email fraud, and we are deeply committed to doing our part to protect our customers from financial fraud. If a customer receives a suspicious unsolicited message, we urge them to not provide personal or account information and to immediately contact us directly via our Citibank app, website (citi.com), or by calling the customer service number listed on our website. We did everything possible to seek the recovery of funds that were taken from Ms. Berman by fraudsters using her personal and account information."

Additionally, here are some tips provided by Citibank to help keep your accounts safe:

  • If you receive a one-time passcode you didn’t request, don’t give the code to anyone who contacts you for it.
  • Use known links to access businesses online.
  • Verify any phone, text or email contacts are legitimate before sharing information such as your account number, security word, PIN, User ID or password.
  • Be leery of requests to download apps to fix issues or that allow access to your device.
  • For more information about how you can protect yourself against fraud, and how Citi makes your security a priority, visit: www.citi.com/fraudprevention.com

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