Student Steals $5 Million in Crypto by Hacking SIM Cards
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Aug. 1, 2018
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California police detained a student at Boston College, who with his accomplices stole more than $5 million in crypto with the help of hacking SIM cards. An attacker named Joel Ortiz and his accomplices hacked about 40 numbers, using a technique called SIM swapping or hijacking.

How it works:

  • The technique is used to assign someone else's phone number by deceiving the telecom operator.
  • Criminals contact the operator, pretending to be the legal owner of the number.
  • Attackers declare about the loss of the SIM-card and ask to tie the number to their other number.
  • Having acquired another number, criminals can drop passwords from their accounts, including cryptocurrency wallets.

Joel Ortiz, along with the unidentified accomplices, attacked businessmen from the crypto world. For example, during the conference Consensus in New York this May, at least three attacks were carried out, when Joel Ortiz duplicated the SIM cards of those present. Then he urged the operator to pin the victim's phone number to a new card controlled by the hacker. After that he got access to the trading accounts.

One of the investors present at the conference lost $1,5 million in cryptocurrency. The offender managed to assign the businessman's phone number, reset the password from his Gmail account, and seize the cryptocurrency wallet. The victim turned to the telecommunications operator to return the phone number, but it was too late.

The college student was arrested only recently at the airport, when he wanted to flee the country. He was charged with 28 charges, including hacking, theft of personal data and funds on a large scale. After the arrest, Joel Ortiz confessed about his deeds. Investigators assume that he also planned to hack twitter accounts and e-mails of the victims, then demand the ransom.

The scammer got caught only after he focused on one investor for several months. He not only hacked the accounts, but also stalked the victim's daughter. This allowed Californian cyberpolice to trace his messages, linking them to specific Android devices and accounts.

Currently, the accused is in a pre-trial detention. The hearing is scheduled for August 9 this year.


1. This case is the first in history, when the stealing of cryptocurrency took place with the help of the so-called SIM swapping.

2. Scammers regularly improve their methods and invent new ways of cheating. In this case, the method of capturing the SIM card becomes more profitable for criminals who want to earn money on bitcoins.

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