A US teenager has been charged with stealing $1 million worth of cryptocurrency through a hacking technique known as SIM swapping – though he has pleaded not guilty to 87 counts of grand larceny, identity theft, and other charges.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is claiming Yousef Selassie, 19, used the SIM swapping technique to control the phones of people across 20 states between January 20 and May 19 2019.
SIM swapping is where cybercriminals convince a victim’s phone carrier to reassign the victim’s cell phone number from the current SIM card to the hacker’s own phone.
Selassie allegedly transferred his victims’ phone numbers to his own iPhones, allowing him to reset the passwords and gain access to numerous email and cryptocurrency accounts.
The stolen $1 million came from just two victims, authorities have said.
Selassie was arrested on December 5 in Corona, California and extradited to New York.
He has since been arraigned in Manhattan Supreme Court, where he pleaded not guilty to 87 counts of grand larceny, identity theft, and other charges.
Justice Mark Dwyer ordered Selassie to surrender his passport and check in weekly with a supervised-release representative, reports the New York Post.
Authorities executed search warrants on Selassie’s residences in Brooklyn and California where they seized multiple pieces of high-end jewellery, a monogrammed Gucci wallet, two Rolex watches, and six iPhones.
SIM swapping cases on the rise
SIM swapping is a growing issue and is a popular method among thieves targeting cryptocurrency owners.
Last month, Coin Rivet reported on two suspects who were arrested and charged in connection with a SIM swapping scheme.
Eric Meiggs, 21, and Declan Harrington, 20, attempted to steal more than $550,000 in cryptocurrency from 10 identified victims.
Meiggs allegedly even threatened the family of one victim.
The pair were charged in an 11-count indictment with one count of conspiracy, eight counts of wire fraud, one count of computer fraud and abuse, and one count of aggravated identity theft.
Interested in reading more SIM swapping-related stories? Discover more about a SIM card hijacker behind a $5 million theft being jailed for 10 years.