The cryptocurrency scam that’s now high priority for US law enforcement

A special team set up by American officials is targeting SIM swapping scams…

The growing problem of SIM swapping has become a major concern for American law enforcement officials, according to a new report.

The story surfaced following an interview at Krebs On Security, who was chatting to members of California’s REACT Task Force. This is a team of officials who have been tasked with getting on top of the problem of SIM swapping.

SIM swapping is a mobile phone fraud, that involves a fraudster convincing a mobile phone operator to reset a user’s account, issuing a new SIM card. That SIM then allows access to a user’s phone account, and all the contacts and details therein. Including cryptocurrency wallets, in many (lucrative) instances. In one instance, over $100,000 was stolen off the back of just one SIM swap case.

The REACT team has already had some success with its work, with an arrest made in the autumn of two men accused of stealing some $14m. As per the report, the team was originally assembled to investigate a breadth of cybercrimes, but SIM swapping has bubbled to the top. Partly  because of location: it’s a California-based team investigating California-based crimes. But also, the sharp rise in SIM swap cases.

Interestingly, in spite of the spike, the team believes that it’s a small number of individuals behind the crimes, and according to Samy Tarazi, a supervisor for REACT, “we’re talking about kids aged mainly between 19 and 22 being able to steal millions of dollars in cryptocurrencies. I mean, if someone gets robbed of $100,000 that’s a huge case, but we’re now dealing with someone who buys a 99 cent SIM card off eBay, plugs it into a cheap burner phone, makes a call and steals millions of dollars. That’s pretty remarkable”.

The full report can be read here, and as always, vigilance is advised. If you notice anything unusual about your phone account, it pays to play on the safe side.

Image: BigStock