Business 23 November 2018

Erik Gibbs

Silicon Valley exec loses $1M in SIM card hack

SIM card scams are becoming a major issue. This past July, a Californian man barely out of his teens was arrested for his alleged involvement in a theft ring that reportedly stole over $5 million through the scheme. The subject of SIM card frauds has been a hot issue with regulators over the past couple of weeks as more cases are being seen. Now, another victim of the scam has surfaced, revealing that he lost over $1 million to SIM card thieves.

Robert Ross is an angel investor out of San Francisco whose main focus is on initial coin offering (ICO) presales. According to an article in the New York Post, his cell phone was stolen, resulting in a swap of his SIM card that allowed a thief to steal $500,000 from two accounts he held on the Gemini and Coinbase exchanges. He had been saving the money so he could send his daughters to college.

In a SIM swap scam, a fraudster gains access to personal data of the holder of a particular phone number. The phone number can be found on a business card, social media or one of a number of other sources. Having the phone number and personal data in hand, the thief will then contact the service provider and report a “lost” phone, tracking the provider into assigning the victim’s phone number to a new phone and a new SIM. Then, using two-factor identification that is common today, the fraudster is able to gain access to a variety of accounts.

The thief in Ross’s case was eventually caught and identified as Nicholas Truglia, a 21-year-old con artist out of New York. He was found to have attempted to conduct a number of hacks of other executives, but those attempts were unsuccessful. Truglia now faces 21 different charges, including fraud, embezzlement, identity theft and attempted grand theft auto. However, the problem isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

According to Erin West, Santa Clara Superior Court deputy district attorney, “It’s a new way of doing an old crime. It’s a pervasive problem, and it involves millions of dollars […] You’re sitting in your home, your phone is in front of you, and you suddenly become aware there is no service because the bad guy has taken control of your phone number.”

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