Sim-Swapping, Bitcoin Swiping 19-Year-Old Snags Luxury Car
On August 17th police arrested 19-year-old Xzavyer Narvaez on seven counts of computer crime. These included identity fraud and grand theft. The hacker was accused of hijacking phone numbers to steal large amounts of cryptocurrency successfully. Attacks like this are a part of an emerging type of fraud called sim swapping. While Narvaez was caught, it’s clear that attacks like this are a growing trend.
A Network of Fraudsters
The arrest comes a month after Joel Ortiz was taken into custody for hijacking phone numbers. Ortiz allegedly stole around $5 million in Bitcoin and became the first criminal ever to be arrested for sim swapping. This attack, also known as a “port-out scam” involves tricking a telecom provider ito providing control over a victim’s phone number to a hacker. From there, they can leverage the number into resetting passwords, and gaining access to sensitive files or digital wallets.
In this particular case, Narvaez and Ortiz appeared to be a part of an organized group of hackers that targeted cryptocurrency investors at gatherings like the Consensus Conference in New York. The group also used this scam to gain access to sensitive social media accounts which they could then sell for Bitcoin.
Narvaez didn’t wait to begin enjoying his stolen largess as he decided to sink his cryptocurrency into luxury cars. Using DMV records, the police found out that Narvaez used some of his ill-gotten Bitcoin to purchase a 2018 McLaren. Previously he purchased an Audi R8 with the cryptocurrency. Three victims have been confirmed, one of whom lost $150,000 according to the investigators.
A Big Haul
Officials were able to access records from crypto exchange services BitPay and Bittrex which showed that between March and July of 2018 Narvaez had access to 157 Bitcoin, which is currently valued at around $1 million.
While these are the first prosecutions for sim swap attacks, they will certainly not be the last. As more money is stored in the form of digital currencies and social media handles are increasingly valuable, cell phone numbers are becoming attractive exploits in digital identification.
One way of protecting yourself from this kind of fraud is setting up a spoken password with your telecom provider. This ensures that you are who you say you are when dealing with them over the phone. This also prevents fraudsters from impersonating you to obtain your sim card and therefore your private information.