With great power comes great responsibility, but in the recent past, big telcos like AT&T and T-Mobile have been caught up in a storm, with SIM hijackers taking over the accounts of its subscribers, gaining access to accounts on listed cryptocurrency exchanges, which have incurred losses extending into millions of dollars for the victims.
A tech entrepreneur, Robert Ross, joined by other victims, has launched an initiative with the main aim of raising awareness about such scams and putting pressure on telcos to put in place a system to protect subscribers.
“This is a major problem that’s growing fast,” Ross, who was the unlucky victim of a SIM swapping hack, losing $1 million from his Gemini And Coinbase accounts last year, told Motherboard in a phone call. “I really believe this is being enabled by the carriers.”
This new initiative, called StopSimCrime, is the brainchild of Ross, who wants to make the public more aware of this increasing SIM hijacking spree.
In a report by CNN in August last year, Ross was just one of the few victims caught in the hijacking web of Joel Ortiz. In all, SIM hijacker Joel Ortiz and his group of accomplices managed to dupe unsuspecting victims of around US$5 million.
The way Ortiz managed these splendid feats was by specifically getting hold of prolific persons in the cryptocurrency and blockchain market. His arrest came only after investigators obtained the International Mobile Equipment Identity numbers of the mobile devices used in SIM swapping, leading to SIM hijacking, with the help of telecommunications giant AT&T.
Another headline arrest was that of Xzavyer Narvaez, another SIM hijacker, who allegedly spent the millions he had gathered through his hijacking schemes, purchasing various ultra-luxurious cars including a 2012 Audi R8 and a 2018 McLaren.
The site was launched on Tuesday by Robert Ross in a press release. There’s an FAQ page on the site that explains what SIM swapping is and what measures can be taken to safeguard oneself from becoming a victim. If a person is, however, the unfortunate victim of SIM swapping, he/she can connect with the Regional Enforcement Allied Computer Team or REACT, a Silicon Valley-based task force, who have been behind the arrests of Xzavyer Narvaez and Joel Ortiz, in a steadily growing list.
Last year, Michael Turpin, a bitcoin investor, lost US$24 million to SIM hijackers, filed a US$224 million lawsuit against AT&T saying the telecoms operator was at fault when SIM hijacked impersonated him and gained access to his cryptocurrency accounts.