Cryptocurrency-related crimes are closely resembling those drawn out of a James Bond movie script. In late September, Oklahoma officials arrested two men, 21-year-old Joseph Harris and 23-year-old Fletcher Robert Childers, for allegedly stealing around $14 million using SIM-swapping methods from Crowd Machine, a blockchain firm. According to sources, one of the suspects, Harris, is a well-known SIM swapper who goes by the name “Doc” in the cybercriminal world.
SIM Swapping Cryptocurrency Heist
SIM swapping, also called SIM jacking, is on the rise, and scammers are using it to con people their cryptocurrencies.
Though it is an elaborate scam, SIM jacking scam artists trick cell phone service providers into transferring the control of a SIM card from its legal user to the hacker. Once the hacker gains control of the SIM card, he can gain access to the person’s online accounts, such as digital wallets and social media accounts.
The suspects allegedly hacked Craig Sproule, CEO of Crowd Machine, on Sept. 21, who did not waste time in reporting the matter to the Regional Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT), a cybercrime fighting task force comprising several California police departments.
Ken Valentine, a special agent with REACT, explained:
“They fool the phone company into giving them access to that phone or they have paid them off to get that information. Once they have the right information from a cell phone, they can basically take over my cell phone, your cell phone, whatever SIM card information they receive.”
The investigators acted swiftly, and within three days, they apprehended the two suspects at the SpringHill Suites hotel. The investigators tracked Sproule’s cell phone and discovered that it had been transferred to another cell phone near the hotel. Further investigations revealed that the two suspects bought the cellphone at a local Walmart store on Sept. 18.
The suspects are charged with identity theft, grand theft, and hacking.
The REACT task force has been investigating SIM jacking in the last few months. John Rose, commander of REACT, promised more arrests to follow in the following months. He said:
“REACT isn’t going to stop the SIM swapping investigation until SIM swapping stops if it’s gonna take us arresting every SIM swapper in (the) United States.”
The alleged criminals are also suspected of laundering their stolen proceeds through multiple exchanges, including those outside US borders.
Valentine further added that the crime should serve as a “wake up call” to the public.
Outrageous Cryptocurrency Crimes
Cryptocurrencies have attracted a new breed of criminal activities, and some of them have been as daring as ever.
In April, Ian Balina, a well-known YouTube cryptocurrency influencer, and investor lost $2 million in cryptocurrencies in a hack during a live stream of an initial coin offering review.
In February, Tesla’s Amazon cloud account was hacked and was used to mine cryptocurrencies. In August, California authorities arrested Xzavyer Narvaez, a 19-year-old, for buying luxury vehicles using stolen Bitcoins.