Another case of SIM-swapping is in the books. This time, the culprit is allegedly a 19-year-old man based in Brooklyn, New York, who may have stolen as much as $1 million in assorted crypto funds from various individuals.
SIM-Swapping Is Becoming More Common
The thief – named Yousef Selassie – is presently charged with grand larceny, identity theft and computer trespass among other things. He will face trial and judgement in a Manhattan district court.
SIM-swapping is growing in popularity amongst cryptocurrency thieves and hackers. The process can occur in one of two ways. The more complicated method involves getting a hold of one’s personal information, i.e. their birthdate, social security number, etc. The hacker then calls the person’s cell phone provider with this information in hand. They speak with a customer service representative and request that the phone number be moved over to a separate SIM card – one that they control – on account that they lost their phone or some other false reason.
When the representative asks for private information, the hacker will typically have it and offer it willingly, thereby “confirming” their identity. The number is then switched to the SIM card in their hand and they now control the person’s phone, which means they have an open door to all their accounts granted the victim has accessed them via their mobile device.
The second method is much simpler, and usually involves simply bribing the customer service rep to behave appropriately and do as the hacker bids.
Manhattan-based district attorney Cyrus R. Vance explained in a statement:
From his Brooklyn apartment, this defendant accessed accounts belonging to 75 victims in 20 different states. As alleged, in just four months, he drained his victims of more than $1 million in cryptocurrency with little more than an iPhone and a computer.
It is believed that Selassie was active for roughly four months, between January and May of 2019. He accessed the cell phones of several individuals and transferred their numbers to iPhones in his possession, where he proceeded to access their crypto accounts and move their funds.
A Few Past Instances
Among the largest SIM-swapping cases to emerge this year is one involving Michael Terpin, who is suing AT&T for allegedly not doing enough to keep his private data safe. Terpin – a bitcoin entrepreneur and investor – reportedly lost millions in crypto funds over the summer through the work of a hacker. While the phone and internet service provider is claiming innocence in this case, a federal judge based in Los Angeles says otherwise, and has recently given a green light to Terpin’s pending lawsuit against AT&T.
Another SIM-swapping case occurred months later and involved two individuals threatening violence to social media executives. Both men were later charged and now await their day in court.