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No network in phone led to Mumbai businessman losing Rs 2 crore to hackers

Mumbai: Facing network issues on your phone, double-check the connectivity with the service provider as chances are high that cybercriminals have cloned your SIM and withdrawing your money.

Something similar happened with Mumbai based businessman Sanjay Makhija who on October 3 noticed that there was no network on his phone.

This was little unusual as Makhija who had never faced the connectivity issue at his office in Khar area before. The phone remained out of network and he returned home in Bandra-west thinking it to be a technical glitch.

Throughout the night there was no network on his phone and the problem continued for the next two days. It was finally on October 4 afternoon he noticed a message on his phone which said – ‘no SIM card’.  He decided to call the customer care a day after on Monday not releasing that the damage was already done.

On Monday, when Makhija checked his bank account to transfer some fund to his client, he was shocked to find that Rs 2 crore had been debited from his in 32 transactions on the intervening night of Saturday and Sunday.

So, during the time there was no network on his phone, a cybercriminal had made a clone of his SIM card and hacked his email and other accounts to gain access to his banking login id and passwords. Then they siphoned off Rs 2 crore by making 32 transactions. Makhija could never know about these transactions as there was no network on his phone.

Initial investigation shows that the criminals managed to clone the businessman’s SIM card. The police suspect the accused persons got access to the businessman’s unique SIM number and initiated a SIM swap. The swap allowed them to receive OTP messages, that are often required to authenticate banking transactions.

Officials said the accused may have got the businessman’s SIM card details with the help of a ‘malware’, a type of computer virus. Advocate Dr Prashant Mali, who specialises in cyber laws, told a Mumbai based newspaper that hackers obtain a SIM card’s 20-digit unique ID number by sending unsuspecting users an email or a message containing malware. Once they have the unique ID, they approach the network operator with fake KYC documents and seek a new SIM card, saying the old one has been lost. With the new SIM card, they gain full control over the device.

Dr. Prashant Mali, Cyber & Privacy Expert Lawyer
Dr. Prashant Mali, Cyber & Privacy Expert Lawyer

 ‘No SIM card’ message should flash on the original account holder’s device once a new card is issued, there is a time lag in this — and during this time all that the mobile user sees on his phone is a ‘no network’ flash. Most card cloning incidents, he said, happen on weekends, when people use phones less and are also less likely to approach their network operator with a problem – Advocate Dr Prashant Mali


  • The fraudsters will first collect your personal banking information through phishing, vishing, smishing or any other means.
  • Once they have your personal information, they get your SIM blocked, and obtain a duplicate one by visiting the mobile operator’s retail outlet with fake identity proof.
  • The mobile operator deactivates the genuine SIM card, which was blocked, and issues a new SIM to the fraudsters.
  • It is now simple to generate a one-time password (OTP) required for transactions using the stolen banking information.
  • This OTP is received on the new SIM held by the fraudsters and they can now transact before the bank customer realizes the theft and alerts the bank.


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