In this digital age, the internet has given us the power to do anything we want online. Since almost everything you do is done across the internet, it is important for you to secure your information and online accounts from hackers.
Cybercriminals are always on the prowl looking to snatch people’s phones and gain access to their bank accounts, crypto wallet, and any valuable data they can find. People who run their bank accounts from their phones need to be careful not to lose their phones to hackers.
Hackers are clever and so smart. Time after time, they are devising new strategies and methods of hacking into people’s phones and online accounts. It is possible for hackers to duplicate every single piece of information on your smartphone or device. They can access the data on your phone by getting details such as PINs, passwords, crypto wallet keys, and bank logins.
In order to protect yourself from this problem, it is highly important for you to understand how this trick works. The trick is called ‘phone cloning’, and it is a popular way scammers or hackers use to get information from people’s phones.
So how do you protect your phones from phone cloning? Is it possible to reverse phone cloning on your devices? This guide will provide you with answers to these questions.
What is Phone Cloning?
Phone cloning is a technique that involves reprogramming a mobile phone’s identity into another device. It is illegal and unauthorized to use someone else’s telephone device. When a phone is cloned, it replicates the original device.
Hackers, fraudsters, and cybercriminals can make anonymous calls just after cloning a mobile phone, as the call will be traced to another person. It is possible to clone a phone without touching it.
Phone cloning can also be called phone piracy, where criminals can use your phone number to make foreign calls. The original owner of the cloned phone will be charged for outgoing calls. If your phone is hacked and used to make international calls, you will be paying expensively for those calls. In case you notice sudden, unexpected high bills from your telephone network provider, your phone has likely been cloned.
Phone cloning is a form of fraud, and it is illegal in most countries. Heavy penalties await those who clone people’s phones in these countries.
How Does Phone Cloning Work?
Phone cloning is not very popular these days, thanks to digital networks. However, there are lots of phone clone apps on the internet that pose a threat to mobile devices. Even though phone cloning is not as common as it used to be, many phone owners are facing the issue of it.
Before, hackers used clone devices to examine or monitor the signals between mobile phones and cell towers. In doing this, they make expensive calls, such as international ones, at the expense of the phone’s original owner.
Although phone cloning still happens in this era, it is not really prevalent – thanks to digital network systems. A device can still be cloned when phone calls fall back on the analog system in certain areas. Digital networks know and can track multiple signals that use an identical channel that a single analog call has previously used.
In fact, signals are now binary, making scanning cell signals extremely difficult. However, the disadvantage of this digital network system is the analog backups. Many carriers maintain analog cell stations to control the overflow in places with high traffic. If a single station gets busy, it will divert calls on the analog network. Anyone with a scanner around that network range can get your phone’s IMEI. Hackers need the IMEI of your device to clone your phone.
Every phone has an IMEI number, which serves as a unique identity. SIM cards also have their own unique serial numbers, which are called ‘ESN numbers’. Analog systems use the CDMA technology, where data like Mobile Identification Number (MIN) and Electronic Serial Number (ESN) transmits beside your call data. Cloners and hackers can easily get your ESN and MIN. To clone a phone, all they need to do is to flash any blank phone using your phone data.
Today, digital systems are built to use the GSM technology that also uses the IMEI number of the mobile phone. Getting the IMEI number is not too difficult. First, you need to get a SIM reader and writer to replicate the SIM. By using an empty SIM and a SIM cloning tool, a cloner can write the IMEI number of your mobile phone in the empty SIM within a few seconds. SIM readers and writers are readily accessible and available in different online stores.
Before a hacker can clone a mobile phone, he will have to steal these numbers and use them to reprogram the chip inside a mobile phone into another device. Then, the radio signal of the clone will be a bit different from the original signal. The drawback of this is that the network service provider can be notified of this threat and possibly help them track the clone.
It is imperative to note that these scanners are illegal to use and can be very difficult to access. Still, some people obtain these scanners from the dark web for a small fee. Come to think of it, those who clone other people’s phones do not care to know if what they are doing is illegal or not.
When cloners get your IMEI number, they can clone your mobile device with ease. They can make calls to anyone around the world with your phone number while you pay for those calls.
When a mobile phone is cloned, the hacker or person has control and access to the original line. In other words, the hacker can receive and send messages, make and receive calls, read your messages, and also listen to your calls without you knowing. The hacker can listen to your phone calls if only the cloned and original phone is around the same broadcast tower.
The major disadvantage of phone cloning is that it intercepts the calls and messages meant for the original owner of the phone. Hence, it gives the hacker full and unrestricted access to a lot of data and information on your mobile phone.
How do you feel if you discover that your phone has been cloned? Imagine someone else listening to your calls, reading your messages, and accessing every piece of information without your knowledge.
Let’s say that your phone is not cloned or hacked. However, this guide can help protect your mobile phone against cloning. Who knows if you are the next target of hackers?
Now that you know what phone cloning is and how it works, the next thing you should know is how to reverse phone cloning or stop it.
It is important to let you know that it may be difficult to restore your phone to normal after it has been cloned. This is the major reason why you should protect your phone against cloning beforehand rather than living in regret when the deed has been done.
No one actually knows whether his phone has been cloned, and no one knows when they will face this situation. Reading this guide will help you solve the problem whenever you find yourself in such a situation.
How Do You Know If Your Phone Is Cloned?
If you have a feeling that your mobile device has been cloned, there are some signs that you will need to look out for to confirm it. There is no direct way to detect if your device is being cloned.
If at all you suspect that someone has cloned your device, you need to look out for the following signs below:
1. Receiving Error Messages
To make this clear, if your mobile phone has been cloned by a hacker, you will start receiving error messages, which include text like “your device cannot connect to the network”. Also, you may notice that you miss out on phone calls and SMS because they are all being routed to the other device (the copy), which is a replica of your phone number.
2. Check Your Phone’s Location Data
Sometimes, you will be notified by your SIM carrier that your phone number has been migrated to a new phone. This is what makes it so obvious. There are other applications that can send you such notifications if you connect using a new mobile device.
People using Android phones can use Google’s Find My Device feature to verify the location where the application thinks your device is. If you are using an iPhone or any iOS device, you can do the same with Find My iPhone to check where your device is located. If it shows that your phone has been used in more than one location, it is likely that someone else has access to your device.
Although these applications are not created to know if your phone is cloned they will surely give you a hint about phone cloning.
In doing this, you can check or verify whether your mobile phone has been cloned by your close associate or someone in another country. Before verifying this, ensure you have enabled or turned on your device’s location.
3. Check Your Phone Bills
The best and most common way of detecting phone cloning is by examining your phone bills. Keep a close eye on your phone bill every month and detect strange phone calls. Upon discovering unidentified calls, use reverse phone research to know who the next person is. Then again, you can contact your phone carrier if you ever suspect unusual phone activity. Your phone carrier can help you trace the tower where the call is coming from.
Apparently, you will surely come across these problems if your phone has been cloned. Most times, people chose to purchase a new SIM card when they notice that their device has been cloned. This is the major reason why we advise people to do what they need to do to prevent phone cloning in the first place than trying to solve the problem after the deed has been done.
4. Use a Shortcode
*#06# is the code for checking a phone’s IMEI. A good way to check if your phone has been cloned is to check whether the IMEI number of your phone matches the one that displays when you dial *#06#.
If you are using an iPhone, you can check your IMEI by clicking on Settings >> General >> About >> Status >> IMEI information. To get your IMEI on an Android device, go to Settings >> About Phone >> IMEI number.
5. Using the Build Number
Check if the build number of your phone is the same as the model online. You can check the build number of your device by following the same process of checking the IMEI number. The build number of a device is usually listed just under the IMEI number.
When you get the build number, type the number on Google to know if the model is identical to your phone’s model. If it doesn’t, then your device has been cloned.
Are there other things you should look out for? Yes, there are other ways to check phone cloning. Do not ignore these signs below as they are red flags:
- Sudden and weird call activity on your phone bill. That can be when your phone airtime or credit drops or you get exhausted quickly, even when you didn’t call anyone or subscribe to any new tariff plan from your network service provider. If you think the bill is outrageously higher than what you are expecting, you can contact your carrier and request a comprehensive call history from them. Now, if you discovered that you were billed for calls you never made, your phone may have been cloned.
- A spike in calls from abandoned or wrong numbers.
- One sign you should never ignore is if your contacts receive text messages from your phone without your knowledge. Moreover, if you send a message to one of your contacts and the person got a second message that you didn’t send after sending your own message.
- Having problems while accessing the voicemail or the disappearance of voicemails.
- Receiving calls from the SIM carrier confirming to know whether you traveled abroad or not.
- Suddenly getting to receive more SMS and calls.
- Suppose your phone starts behaving absurdly. If your phone has no defects or faults, it should run smoothly without causing you any issues. However, if it starts showing you some weird signs, like the camera app launching without prompts or clicking sounds while you are on calls or sudden overheating, then it’s most likely that your phone has been cloned.
Irrational behavior by your mobile phone. Your phone should run smoothly without any issues. But suddenly, you start noticing some weird functionalities like overheating, clicking sounds when making calls, or the camera app launching without prompts.
READ MORE: How To Jailbreak an Android Phone
How To Reverse Phone Cloning
The surest way to reverse phone cloning is to contact your phone’s manufacturer. Upon request, the company will help you block the clone from accessing the data and information on the original device, which is your phone. If it’s a good company, they will assign a representative to you, who will ask you some questions to verify if you are the actual owner of the phone.
After passing the test, the representative will reprogram your phone and assign it a new IMEI number. Once your phone has been reprogrammed and a new IMEI number has been given to it, the phone cloning will be reversed. And the other clone will not have access to your phone’s information.
Now that you have reversed phone cloning, you must be careful with your phone. Be sure not to give it to strangers, dubious persons, or people of questionable character so that no one can clone it.
How Can You Protect Your Device Against Phone Cloning?
If your device is being cloned, you will pay huge phone bills even without making calls. If you don’t want to pay heavily for this, you will have to take some precautionary measures against phone cloning.
Just as we advise, it is better to prevent the issue beforehand than to solve it when it happens. We think you should know some things to prevent any fraudulent or doubtful activity on your mobile phone. They include:
- You don’t need to be told to secure your phone with a PIN, password, or biometric lock.
- Ensure that you don’t use unauthorized applications on your mobile device.
- Ensure you always keep your phone with you and not in the custody of someone else.
- Make sure you do not jailbreak or root your mobile phone.
- Make it a habit to always clear cache, cookies, and browsing history regularly.
- Turn off your Bluetooth or Wi-Fi when they are not in use.
- Protect your device by using a security application.
Ensure that you use the information above to protect your phone from being cloned. Even though phone cloning is something of the past, it still happens to ignorant people. In fact, there is little you can do to reverse phone cloning, but with the preventive measures we disclosed, you can significantly reduce the chances of your phone getting cloned.
The most trusted way to protect your phone from being cloned is to set up a PIN screen lock or a biometric lock. With this in place, hackers and fraudsters will never have access to your device and will not be able to see your phone data. Therefore, stay vigilant and keep your device protected at all times.