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What is Phone Cloning?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Phone cloning is a practice where someone hacks a cell phone to associate its identifying data with that of another unit. This effectively allows people to make calls anonymously, as the calls will be mistakenly traced to another individual. It also allows people to make free calls, since the bill goes to the person with the original model. In most nations, phone cloning is a form of fraud and is considered illegal, with heavy penalties, since it involves tampering with telecommunications devices. People who believe they may have been victims of this technique should report it to their cell carriers immediately.

Every handset has two paired pieces of data used by the provider to identify it, the electronic serial number (ESN) and mobile identification number (MIN). Someone who wants to clone a phone can illegally access cell signals to harvest this data, and then reprogram the chip inside a phone to get it to transmit the ESN and MIN of another model. The cloned phone's radio signal will still be slightly different, and this can allow the provider to catch it.

People engage in this activity for a variety of reasons, ranging from wanting an anonymous phone to use for illegal activities to not being able to afford cell service. In regions with a large immigrant community, entrepreneurs may sell cloned phones to people who want to be able to place calls to their home nations. People use them until the provider catches on, and then abandon them for cloned replacements.

Victims of phone cloning will notice changes on their bills, usually a drastic spike in charges with calls to numbers they do not recognize. People may also send texts with cloned phones. Some victims report issues like missing calls or being unable to place outgoing calls and texts. Anyone who notices something irregular should contact the cell provider to report it. The sooner people identify the problem, the more quickly it can be addressed. The device usually needs reprogramming by a representative of the service provider to give it new unique identifiers.

Guides to phone cloning circulate, along with equipment people can use for this purpose. In some nations, owning such equipment can subject people to legal penalties on the grounds that ordinary consumers would only have fraudulent uses for it. People who want legitimate access to this type of equipment for the purpose of studying phone cloning and improving security to prevent it must usually work for the manufacturer, cell provider, or a consulting agency.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MyLawQuestions researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Alisa77 — On Sep 17, 2018

A few days ago I almost became a victim of telephone fraud. The man rang, said he was working at a bank and wanted to know my bank details. But, fortunately, I checked the information on the phone number and found out that they are scammers. Therefore, always check the information of the phone number with the help of various services, and never give your personal data to strangers! Take care of yourself!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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