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Student Faces Charges for Stealing $5 Million in Crypto via “SIM Jacking”

Motherboard has reportedly obtained court documents pertaining to the arrest of Joel Ortiz, a 20-year-old from Boston, who is accused of stealing $5 million USD in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Mr. Ortiz and his currently unidentified accomplices stole crypto from roughly 40 victims through a hacking technique known as “SIM jacking.”

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20-Year-Old Arrested For Part in Theft of $5 Million in Crypto

It has been reported that on the 12th of July, Californian police arrested a college student accused of being part of a group of criminals responsible for the theft of more than $5 million in cryptocurrencies.

Mr. Ortiz was reportedly arrested at Los Angeles International Airport whilst on his way to Europe donning a Gucci bag presumed to have been paid for with stolen money. The 20-year-old now faces 28 charges, including 13 counts of hacking, 13 counts of identity theft, and 2 counts of grand theft.

Ortiz is currently in jail awaiting his plea hearing on August 9th. His bail was set at $1 million.

First Reported Instance of Crypto Stolen Through ‘SIM Jacking’

Motherboard has claimed that the case comprises the first reported instance in which the increasingly prevalent technique of “SIM jacking” has been used to steal virtual currency.

According to the publication, “SIM swapping consists of tricking a provider like AT&T or T-Mobile into transferring the target’s phone number to a SIM card controlled by the criminal. Once they get the phone number, fraudsters can leverage it to reset the victims’ passwords and break into their online accounts (cryptocurrency accounts are common targets.) In some cases, this works even if the accounts are protected by two-factor authentication.”

Hackers Target Consensus Conference in May

Several of Mr. Ortiz and his yet-to-be-identified accomplices’ victims included attendees of the Consensus conference in New York City in May. One conference attendee who wishes to remain anonymous lost more than $1.5 million from one individual – nearly $1 million of which had been raised through initial coin offering.

“I looked at my phone and it was dead,” the individual told Motherboard. “We were having a meeting and all of a sudden he says ‘Fuck my phone just stopped working.’” The individual added that his friend later texted him: “My fucking SIM got hacked.”

Motherboard reported that “According to court documents, Ortiz took control of the entrepreneur’s cell phone number, reset his Gmail password and then gained access to his cryptocurrency accounts. The entrepreneur ran to the AT&T store to get his number back, but it was too late.”

What is your response to the arrest of Joel Ortiz? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!


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