SIM-swapping has become a very real threat among cryptocurrency users. One teen in Brooklyn managed to steal over $1 million in crypto by utilizing this method. Despite targeting 75 individuals, the stolen funds only came from two victims.
SIM Swapping Explained
SIM Swapping does not involve physically having one’s SIM card stolen. It is the term used when someone gains control over one’s mobile phone number. The victims of such an attack will suddenly lose all connectivity in terms of mobile data, texting, and calls. It only takes a few minutes to complete such a swap assuming the criminal can provide the necessary information.
By taking over someone’s mobile phone number, a lot of financial damage can be done. In the cryptocurrency world, online trading accounts are often protected by 2FA. Most service providers send a verification code via SMS to a user when they try to log in. If a third party has access to this code, they can access others’ accounts. It often results in the theft of funds, with no recourse available.
The Yousef Selassie Heist
News broke of a 19-year-old American teen performing several dozens SIM swaps in early 2019. The individual goes by the name of Yousef Selassie. Through his methods, he gained control over 75 phone numbers across 20 US states. It is believed he engaged in SIM swapping over the course of four months.
For reasons unknown, Selassie used the same iPhone to gain control over these phone numbers. In doing so, he aimed to reset passwords to cryptocurrency trading accounts. Despite noting success, very few of the accounts hold any money. Preliminary research indicates that he found just two accounts worth emptying. Those accounts combine for $1 million worth of cryptocurrency.
During his arraignment, Selassie pleaded not guilty to SIM swapping. He is charged with 87 counts of identity theft, grand larceny, and other undisclosed charges. No bail is set for this individual. He also needs to check in weekly with a supervised-release program.
After performing a raid on Selassie’s properties in Brooklyn and California, several items were seized. Officials confiscated several iPhones, Rolex watches, Gucci wallet, and various pieces of jewelry. How a 19-year-old is able to pay for all this without resorting to crime, is difficult to explain. For now, the investigation is still ongoing. No new court date has been set at this time.