Alleged SIM swap crypto scammer arrested over $1M crime spree

A scammer alleged to have used a technique known as SIM-swapping to steal the identity and crypto holdings of his victims has been arrested by law enforcement in the United States.

Yousef Selassie, 19, of Brooklyn, New York, is said to have unlawfully accessed the accounts of over 75 victims nationwide, stealing over $1 million in cryptocurrency through the scam. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said the scam was pulled with limited resources, other than Selassie’s knowledge of cryptocurrency: “As alleged, in just four months he drained his victims of more than $1 million in cryptocurrency with little more than an iPhone and computer.”

Following the arrest, law enforcement agents executed a warrant to search Selassie’s home in Brooklyn, recovering a number of electronic devices alleged to have been used in connection with his crimes. Officers also recovered a handwritten note of a crypto wallet seed phrase, used for recovering access to cryptocurrency wallets, as well as jewelry purchased with BTC.

The case is only the latest example of SIM swapping crypto scams, with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office bringing two other major SIM swapping cases to trial over the last few months.

In the last few weeks, Dawson Bakies pleaded guilty to his involvement in a separate SIM swapping scam, thought to have affected as many as 50 victims. He currently faces sentencing, expected to result in a 2-6 year custodial sentence.

Back in July, another defendant, Richard Li, was found to have stolen over $3000 from pulling a similar scam.

SIM swapping scams exploit weaknesses in two-factor authentication to allow scammers to unlawfully gain access to the crypto accounts of others.

As the increasing number of cases being tried in Manhattan suggest, this type of scam is on the rise, as more consumers and retail investors use cryptocurrency for the first time.

Vance said members of the public should be proactive in reporting SIM swapping scams, in order to help prevent others from falling victim to these frauds.

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