Two men, Declan Harrington and Eric Meggs, were arrested and charged in a district court in Boston.
The two men from Massachusetts have been accused of conducting a scheme to overtake social media accounts of other people then stealing their cryptocurrency in the process.
According to the report, the two men are said to have been using the notorious crypto theft regime, SIM swapping, to conduct their fraudulent scheme.
The duo was charged with one count of conspiracy, one count of computer fraud and abuse, one count of identity theft and eight counts of wire fraud totaling to eleven counts of the indictment.
The suspects are reported to have targeted cryptocurrency companies’ executives and other active users in the crypto space using high tech techniques. They were able to access and take control of the victim’s accounts, and in some cases, they were also able to steal their cryptocurrency.
Apparently, the two perps had targeted about ten victims before the arrest. Although the investigations are still underway with the FBI and the IRS-CI, it has been confirmed that the two suspects had stolen or at least attempted to steal crypto worth at least $550,000.
SIM Swapping Attacks
Sim Swapping is becoming the preferable method for stealing crypto as it allows cybercriminals to be able to intercept their victim’s sensitive data, which they can use to access their digital assets.
The scam starts by the fraudster convincing the cellular provider to reassign the victim’s account number to an account on their phone. During which, the attacker offers the cellular carrier legit reasons or resort to bribery of the mobile service provider employees to make it happen.
When successful, the criminal can reset passwords by bypassing security barriers where they, in turn, gain access to the victim’s crypto.
Cases of Cybercrime Spike in the Crypto Space
Earlier this year, Cipher Trace, an analytics company, released a report stating that about $1.7 billion worth of cryptocurrency had been lost in 2018. Over $950 million of that amount was lost due to theft or scam, which was a 300% increase from 2017.
As the matter of crypto hijacking is concerned, it seems this year, SIM swapping is the new scheme that fraudsters are using to initiate their scam efforts.
The two suspects targeted high profile individuals who are believed to have deep pockets so as to gain big bucks out of their scheme.
This is not the first time when scammers have targeted high profile folks in the crypto space. In May this year, BitGo’s engineering manager, Sean Coonce, revealed that he had been a victim of SIM swapping, and the perpetrators involved were successful in getting away with over $100,000 worth of bitcoin from his coinbase account. BitGo is a cryptocurrency custodian.
In the same point in case, the U.S Department of Justice had also announced that they had charged nine people for participating or aiding the theft of cryptocurrency worth $2.4 million.