Reports out today suggest that a 20 year old student from Boston in the United States has been arrested after being accused of involvement in a cryptocurrency scam that is alleged to have seen the theft of $5 million worth of Bitcoin after hacking the phone numbers of more than 40 cryptocurrency traders and investors.
Joel Ortiz, is alleged to have been part of a group that involved hacking the phone numbers of investors in order to change their phones SIM, in order to make the phones accessible to the criminals. As a result of this, the group could then access a range of personal details, including passwords and most importantly, two-factor authorisation codes, a security measure used to verify identities by many cryptocurrency wallets and exchanges. By using these details, the criminals could simply access the victims accounts and drain their funds.
According to Crypto Vest, the courts have referred to this case as the first to involve both cryptocurrency and ‘SIM swapping’, they state:
“This is the first reported case against someone who allegedly used the increasingly popular technique known as SIM swapping or SIM hijacking to steal bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies, and social media accounts.”
See the full article for yourself, here.
Ortiz was arrested earlier this month at Los Angeles International Airport. He is now currently in prison, awaiting a verdict on his sentence which could see him guilt of two counts of grand theft, thirteen counts of identity theft and thirteen counts of exploitative hacking.
It is alleged that the bulk of this took place during the 2018 Consensus Conference in New York this May, during which time, one investor lost around $1 million.
How did authorities catch him?
Interestingly, according to Cryptovest the police located Ortiz, through issuing search warrants to the exchanges that had been used in the hacks. These include Coinbase, Bittrex and Binance. According to Cryptovest:
“Investigators have served warrants on the cryptocurrency exchanges used by Ortiz, including Coinbase, Bittrex and Binance. The information provided showed Ortiz had moved more than $1 million worth of various cryptocurrencies through those platforms. The authorities have so far seized $250,000 in digital money from Ortiz, but said they are unaware where the rest of the stolen funds are being stored.”
This is an example of a very crafty crypto based fraud, and highlights that even when you think your assets are safe, criminals can find a new way to access them.
Always be vigilant and keep your assets offline, it’s the safest way to go!