The cryptocurrency community in the U.S. is alarmed over a SIM swapping scam that has cost many crypto users their passwords, codes and bank account details. More than 50 people have fallen victim to the scam, with hackers making off with millions of dollars. Mainly California, and those in the San Francisco Bay area in particular, are being targeted, sadi reports.
Since the beginning of 2018, about $50 million has been stolen in SIM swapping related-incidents, official said. ZDNet described SIM swapping or SIM jacking as an attack during which a malicious actor uses various techniques to transfer the victim ’s phone number to their own SIM card.
In March 2018, Santa Clara County’s multijurisdictional cybercrimes team, REACT Task Force, recorded its first SIM swap case. The task force is made up of representatives from the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
Experts said that the cyber thieves hijack the mobile phone number by getting the phone carrier to electronically switch the SIM card in the phone to a SIM card that they control. They usually impersonate the victim or bribe an employee of the phone company to get the job done.
The number of such cases seems to be on the decline because of swift action by the law enforcement authorities. However, many victims have taken to Twitter giving the scam renewed public attention.
Chris Robison, whose profile describles him as a community manager at Hoard Exchange, tweeted that was a victim of such hack attempts an had submitted an FBI report. “All sign point to an inside job at the cell company. Phone records were wiped clean for an entire day and ‘recorded for quality and training purposes’ settings were turned off,” he tweeted.
that his personal identity was hacked last week. “The attacker was able to steal $100K+ in a sweep of my Coinbase account. I’m equal parts embarrassed, hurt and deeply remorseful,” the tweet said.
NBC Bay Area said 21-year-old Joel Ortiz was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Santa Clara County after he pleaded guilty to his role in a string of cyber heists. Prosecutors said the heists involved several different hackers operating from around the country. They netted about $18 million in stolen money and assets. The prosecutors also said that Ortiz was only a small part of a “new wave of young hackers,” some even as young as 15.
Authorities said there are many more hackers who have not been caught. Santa Clara County Deputy Attorney Erin West described it as a nationwide epidemic. “It is young kids, who haven’t had jobs, who have figured out a sneaky way, from their homes, in their pyjamas, of how to steal your money.”
West said the decentralized groups of hackers can steal millions in mere minutes from anywhere in the world.