Have you ever heard of phone cloning? What is it, and how can you protect yourself from falling victim to this scam?
There’s a lot of hype about phone cloning making the rounds. Many people are talking about it, but is it safe? Or is it harmful? I’ll explore this topic and tell you what I think about phone cloning.
You must have encountered someone with a phone or credit card cloned. If you are a victim of phone cloning, you will agree with me that the experience is never a good one.
Phone cloning refers to the practice of copying and transferring all the files of a smartphone to another smartphone. Hence, the applications, movies, games, music, photos, chat messages, phone logs, and all settings will be copied to the other device. Maybe you have two or more devices and are looking to clone and manage them from one smartphone; you quickly do this by phone cloning.
Cloning a phone is as straightforward as XYZ, and it is a safe process. Many times, when we talk about phone cloning, it looks unsafe. However, phone cloning is safe and can be done without hassles. Before, phone cloning was prevalent but not as popular as back then; however, it remains an issue for smartphone users.
Cybercriminals and hackers are looking to hijack people’s devices and steal their data and information. This is a nuisance to people with significant, sensitive data on their devices. Also, a cloned phone can be used to commit a crime, and you may be charged for something you know nothing about.
In this article, we will tell you about what phone cloning is, how it works, the signs of a cloned cell phone, and what you can do to protect yourself or prevent your phone from being cloned.
What is Phone Cloning?
Phone cloning is the process of hacking a mobile phone to access its files and copy them to another device. Many fraudsters and criminals clone people’s cell phones to make free anonymous calls, as the bill for the calls will be paid by the one whose phone has been cloned.
iPhones, as well as Android devices, such as Samsung and Motorola, are capable of being cloned. Thankfully, some latest-generation mobile devices have proven to be a difficult nut to crack. Devices like Google Pixel are very difficult to clone.
In some countries, phone cloning is considered an illegal and fraudulent activity. Here, heavy penalties are imposed on people guilty of cloning a device. There is a difference between copying the contents of a cell phone to another device and cloning a phone illegally.
How is a Phone Cloned?
For someone to clone a phone, he or she must have access to two vital pieces of data, which are:
- The Electronic Serial Number (ESN).
- The Mobile Identification Number (MIN).
The abovementioned numbers make it relatively easy for mobile phone carriers to identify a device. However, most fraudsters get the ESN and MIN illegally and then reprogram another device’s chip to enable it to transmit the information to the provider whenever it is used.
With phone cloning, fraudsters can do illegal activities anonymously and make calls anywhere in the world without paying a dime since the call costs will be paid by the original phone.
How Does Phone Cloning Work?
Phone cloning works in two ways. First, the cloners use an electronic scanner to collect the electronic identification number of the SIM card in a cell phone. In case you are wondering what kind of electronic scanner they use, there are different varieties of scanners.
These scanners are used for the wrong reasons, so they aren’t commonly sold in the open market. It is impossible to get a scanner as it is available on the dark web. However, they can be expensive to purchase.
Most phones have increased support and security against cloning, so a phone cloner would want to get physical access to the SIM card to clone the device. Once a cloner gets physical access to the SIM card, the device can be cloned easily – especially for those using the GSM networks where swapping SIM cards is no big deal.
By the time the cloner has the electronic serial number and authentication key of your SIM card, he will use a SIM writer to duplicate the SIM card. Unlike electronic scanners, SIM writers are used for legitimate and genuine purposes and are not costly. Anyone can quickly get a SIM writer for as low as $10 or $15.
Now, when the cloner inserts the duplicated SIM card in another mobile phone, he can use that same phone to make calls, send messages and perform different operations under the original phone owner’s account.
Before now, cloning mobile phones was an easy task in the period of cellular communication, where cellphones and the cell network supported the phone built on analog technology. Today, virtually all cell phones are digital, and their signals are encrypted and encoded, which makes it extremely difficult or impossible to scan SIM information. You can still find some drawbacks in this system, one of which is the existence of analog backups.
Many carriers store analog cell stations running to manage the overflow in high-traffic regions. So, when a single station becomes congested, it overflows specific calls to the old analog network. That means a person with a scanner within that network area can get your phone’s identifying details and information.
Analog system typically uses CDMA technology, which transmits your phone’s Mobile Identification Number (MIN) and Electronic Serial Number (ESN) coupled with the cell data. However, digital systems use GSM, which moved to use a phone’s IMEI number.
While a phone’s MIN and ESN are simple to flash, the IMEI, on the other is slightly different. It is possible to capture the IMEI number and use a hardware SIM reader and writer to clone the SIM, not the card itself.
How Do You Know If Your Phone Has Been Cloned?
There are different signs of a cloned phone. The phone you are using may be cloned before you purchase it. There is no easy way to know if your phone has been cloned, but it is possible to know this.
Let’s say your family, friends, and close acquaintances have been receiving phone calls from you without making those calls, then your phone number may have been spoofed. This means someone is using an app that mimics your phone number on caller ID. The phone may likely be hacked as well.
You can use other signs to tell if your phone is cloned or hacked or if someone is tracking and monitoring your phone activity.
Pay attention to your phone’s behavior. If you suspect that your phone has been cloned or someone else is using your phone without your knowledge, there are some signs you should pay attention to.
If your phone runs smoothly without causing you troubles and issues but suddenly displays irrational behavior like heating up quickly, or you hear clicking sounds even when you are not operating it. Then this could mean that your phone has been cloned or hacked. However, this symptom doesn’t only suggest the phone is cloned, you can get this sign from a poorly designed app.
One of the best ways to know if your phone has been cloned is if some apps on your phone are launching and closing. Also, if your phone consumes more data than it used to or if you get a terrible network signal during your phone calls, this can indicate that your phone has been hacked or cloned.
Whenever you stop receiving SMS or calls, someone else may have gained illegal and unauthorized access to your phone number. So, all your text messages and calls are redirected to the cloned phone, or you could lose your cellular connection outrightly.
If your cellphone has been cloned, all the outgoing texts and calls made by the cloner will appear on your bill. If you suspect any suspicious activity on your phone bill, keep an eye on your monthly payments to know if you are paying more than you should.
Another clear sign to know if your phone has been cloned is if you get a message from your cellular provider that your SIM card has been updated. Let’s say your credentials were activated on a new phone, your phone service provider will send you a message confirming that your contact information has been changed or updated. Whenever you get such a message, don’t joke with it, especially if you did not make any changes. Consider it a big red flag!
Additionally, if you receive an unexpected text message asking you to reset your device, your phone may have long been cloned. When you reboot your device, the hacker or cloner gets more time to load their phone using your cloned identity.
Here are other signs that show if your phone has been cloned:
- When you get more calls and SMS messages from unknown numbers.
- When your carrier calls to know if you’ve traveled.
- Unusual call activity on your bill.
- You get more wrong numbers calling you or abandoned incoming calls than usual.
- When your voicemails start disappearing or when you have difficulty accessing your voicemail.
- When your phone connects to the cellular network or suddenly stops making phone calls. (This happens when the SIM card has been duplicated and used in another phone).
If you notice these signs, don’t be quick to claim that your phone has been cloned. There are other ways you can use to confirm if your phone is cloned. If you are an iPhone user, check for your phone’s location using Find My iPhone. If you are using an Android phone, be sure to do the same using Google Find My Phone.
Although these tools may not be accurate, they can give you a hint if a hacker has cloned your phone in another place or country. However, it is worth noting that this will work if the phone’s location setting is turned on.
Most carriers typically allow you to check your call and text log online. Also, they will notify you if there is any shady or suspicious activity, such as calls to numbers that weren’t dialed with your phone. You can talk to your carrier if you suspect your phone is cloned.
Although carriers do not track your phone activity, they can give you a new SIM card or help you update your call and text activity. It is imperative to note that tracking a phone’s activity is not entirely the same as cloning. You can see this guide to learn how to prevent your cell phone from being tracked.
What Is The Difference Between Hacking a Phone and Cloning a Phone?
Although there are some similarities between phone cloning and phone hacking, they are not the same. In phone hacking, the hacker installs a spy app to gain unauthorized access to track your phone’s activity and information.
This spy app can be hidden or invisible, and it may appear to look harmless. However, it sends data to a 3rd party for them to see your phone log, messages, and location. In most cases, they can even listen to your telephone calls and read your chats. Unfortunately, all these things will go on without you knowing anything about it.
Here’s what differentiates phone cloning from hacking. In phone cloning, the hacker or 3rd party duplicates your SIM Card. When they do this, they can not only track your location and see your messages but also make phone calls and send messages on your phone from their end.
Phone cloning or SIM cloning is not easy to set up; it requires advanced technology. If a 3rd party wants to spy on your phone activity, he will install a spy app on your device.
What Does a Phone Clone App Do?
A phone clone app is designed to transfer data from a smartphone to another. Typically, it moves files and information such as messages, chats, apps, videos, photos, audio, music, and settings the way it is on a cellphone to another device. Phone cloning can be done with a wired connection or WLAN hotspot.
Who Would Hack or Clone Your Phone To Track Your Activity?
The person may not be a hacker in a distant location, but maybe someone close to you. A jealous girlfriend or boyfriend, a suspicious husband or insecure wife, a frenemy, rival, or competitor may clone your phone. Similarly, an angry or envious relative or family member – uncle, aunt, brother, sister, cousin, or anyone can do such. So, be mindful of your device and the information it carries.
We’ve heard reports of friends accessing someone’s phone and transferring all the money from their account. Family members may get unauthorized access to your device to steal some information or leak some sensitive data. News like this happens worldwide, and there are credible sources to confirm it.
You will never be happy when you find out that someone you trust or close to you has been tracking your movements, listening to your phone calls, reading your chats and messages, and monitoring your phone activity. To worsen the situation, if the person accessed your account, views your financial records and transactions, and transferred money from your account. It can be too traumatic to bear; you wouldn’t want that.
These things are regular occurrences on this planet, and you can prevent them from happening if you take the proper steps. Don’t wait till you find out your phone has been cloned or hacked before looking for a solution. It’s better to take precautionary measures, and that will keep you on the safe side.
What To Do If You Suspect Someone Is Tracking Your Phone?
If you suspect your device has been cloned, the first thing to do is to use a security app like AVG, Incognito, or Avast Mobile Security to scan for any malware or spy app. You can find security apps on your phone’s app store. We do not recommend you use one app to run the scan.
You can download up to three mobile security apps and scan your smartphone for spyware. The more security apps you use, the better your chances of detecting malware or spy apps on your device. If you find any spyware after the scan, remove it from your device.
Another thing to do if your feel someone is tracking your phone is to change your password. If you are security-conscious, this would the first thing to pop into your mind. Change all the passwords you have saved or entered on that device – including passwords for your email, bank account, social media, and work. Fraudsters and hackers might have compromised these passwords.
If you are still experiencing the signs of a hacked or cloned phone and you are still sure that someone is spying or tracking you, then factory reset or format your phone to erase the data. Over time, factory resetting has shown to be one of the most effective ways to get a phone free of malware (even though some never leave after the format).
Before you format your phone, ensure that you have a backup of all your files or the most important ones, and you can restore them after the reset. Getting spyware from an existing phone is always tricky; you should do everything possible to prevent your device from being cloned. Use a strong password, don’t give out your passwords, disallow unauthorized physical access to your phone and devices, and don’t click on suspicious links.
If your phone has been cloned, you may not get it back again – it becomes useless. We recommend you start using all the security procedures we recommended before your phone gets cloned. If you still can’t get rid of spyware, it would be to get a new phone, format the old one and discard it.
Another thing you can do if your phone has been cloned is to contact your mobile service provider. Your service provider should be able to track and block the cloned device – since every phone has a unique serial number independent of others and a unique radio fingerprint. Your mobile service provider can also solve this by giving you a new SIM card.
Finally, you can consider reporting this incident to the authorities for them to look into the matter. After the investigation, you may be compensated or reimbursed for the phone charges incurred by the cloners and fraudsters.
How To Prevent Your Phone From Being Hacked or Cloned
1. Prevent Unauthorized Physical Access to Your Device
You can start taking adequate measures to prevent your phone from being cloned. If you want to be the only one using your phone, one of the things you can do to prevent it from being cloned is to stop unauthorized physical access.
Due to the increased security of phone networks, it is hard for someone to effectively clone your phone when you move past their scanner. So, they would install a cloning application on your device.
Someone can quickly install a spy app on your device within two to five minutes. When this is done, they can start tracking your phone activity even without touching your phone.
2. Use a Strong Password
If you care about your personal information, you will secure your phone with a password so no one can access what’s inside. Go to your phone’s settings to enable the screen lock using a PIN, password, pattern, or biometric (fingerprint) to secure your device.
When you do this, no one will access the phone’s contents, even if it is stolen or misplaced. Once your phone’s display is locked, a PIN or password is required before the user gets access. We recommend you turn off your WiFi or Bluetooth when not in use to prevent wireless interception of your information.
3. Don’t Use Silly Passwords
Many phone users are guilty of using passwords that are easy to guess. Hackers are very smart, so you should be smart when choosing a password. Things like your date of birth, first name, nickname, surname, middle name, or the name of your pet are the most awkward and silliest things to use as your PIN or password.
Stop being less concerned about your privacy and security. Remember that your peace of mind is guaranteed only when your data is safe.
4. Stop Sharing Your Passwords
You are taking a massive risk by sharing your passwords with your friends and loved ones. Even if you trust and love them so much, you never know they well they will treat the password. Some people with your passwords may not treat it confidentially and may expose or leak it.
Even your bank will tell you never to disclose your account PIN to anyone – not even their staff or officers because they will tell you to present it to them. That being said, you get a call from anyone claiming to be your service provider or your bank account officer, and they ask you to provide them with your login details, be wise to end the call right there.
Your bank or service provider will never contact you to get that information, so ensure you don’t give out those details.
5. Don’t Install Suspicious Apps or Click on Unverifiable Links
Do not install suspicious apps that you aren’t sure of. Although phone cloning isn’t as prevalent as before, it still happens. Some apps contain cloneware and can scoop your phone activity. Finally, do not click on unverifiable links, especially in your emails.
A single click can start the hidden installation of a tracker or malware on your mobile phone or laptop. Although there is little, you can do to prevent this entirely, the best you can do is to ignore suspicious and unverifiable links.
Keep these tips at the back of your head, as you would be taking a huge security risk if you violate them.
How Can You Fix a Cloned Smartphone
Getting a new SIM card can solve the problem if you are a victim of phone cloning. If your carrier is on the GSM network (AT&T and T-Mobile) or the CDMA network (Verizon and Sprint), you should update the SIM card number with the carrier’s system. This way, the hacker will not lose access to your phone number and can no longer use it.
We cannot write off the chances of someone cloning a phone paired to an eSIM. The eSIM is a type of SIM card hardwired in newer phones such as the recent iPhones and the Google Pixel. However, not all carriers have upgraded to eSIM technology.
As we mentioned earlier, one of the things you can do to solve your phone cloning problem is to get a new cellphone. Changing the SIM card should be enough if you don’t have money to buy a new phone. SIM cards on the CDMA network can be used again but are only compatible with your cellphone’s IMEI number after they are activated.
Some GSM carriers permit you to swap your SIM card in any phone model. However, once a new SIM has been activated on your phone number, the other one will be disabled. Therefore, the old SIM card will no longer work once a new one is activated.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can I clone someone’s phone?
Yes, you can clone someone’s phone and transfer the data in it to another phone. However, ensure that you have obtained permission to do this. It is not hacking when you follow the due process.
How can I clone an Android phone?
Cloning an Android phone is not as difficult as you think. You can easily clone an Android phone by installing the mobile app provided by the phone’s brand or manufacturer. This app should help transfer all your files to another device within a few minutes.
What is the best phone cloning app?
Phone cloning apps are available in different varieties. If you want to migrate to iOS from Android, some apps can help you move all data from your Android phone to your iPhone. Still, you may be unable to transfer your previous WhatsApp chat or your entire data.
Below are some of the best phone clone apps that you can use to transfer data from a smartphone to another:
- Move to iOS.
- Phone clone app by Brands.
- Google Drive.
Are phone cloning apps safe?
Phone cloning apps are safe to use, but not all of them. Before using any phone cloning app, ensure you use the clone app provided by your smartphone brand.
Will phone cloning delete my device data?
You will not delete any of your files when transferring the data. As long as you are using the authorized app, you are on the safe side.
How do I use a clone app?
When you download the clone app, your phone manufacturer provided, look for instructions after installing it. You may find some steps and tips to transfer data. That being said, it is pretty simple to use a clone app.
Can clone app transfer apps?
Phone cloning apps can help transfer third-party apps to another smartphone. It is easy to transfer the apps, but you may have to manually install and log in to them.
Can the clone app transfer WhatsApp data?
It is possible to transfer WhatsApp data (including chat messages, audio, voice notes, videos, etc.) from a smartphone to another. Although the transition will be smooth from android to android, you may face some challenges if you move data from an Android device to an iPhone.
So, it’s clear that whether you decide to clone your phone or not is your decision. It’s generally considered to be safe to clone your phone. It does add an extra layer of security if you are worried about losing your phone, and replacing it with your old one protects against a lot of damage that walking away from a lost phone would usually cause.
There are many reasons to consider using a phone cloning app as a beginner or advanced user. But there are also some downsides to be aware of. I hope you understand clone apps and their risks better and can decide whether they’re right for you.
Cloning phones are not harmful to your device and do not cause any damage. However, it may be an excellent way to duplicate the physical characteristics of a phone’s display. Furthermore, you should be aware that you may face legal consequences if you clone a phone for illegal purposes.