SIM swapping fraud allowed a team of cyber criminals to steal several million dollars worth of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies from Northern California crypto executives. Led by a then-teenage hacker Ahmad Wagaafe Hared, the group of three targeted victims in the San Francisco Bay Area, a long-time hub of crypto startups. The collaboration was very fruitful until the thieves got caught. The story dates back to 2016, but it has recently entered its final stage.
Last Friday, a San Francisco federal court issued a preliminary ruling of forfeiture allowing the government to confiscate from Hared 119.8 Bitcoin, currently worth $5.2 million, 93,420 Stellar Coins, worth $11,770, and a 2017 BMW i8, worth about $60,000 bought with the stolen money. Both Hared's lawyer and the U.S. Attorney's Office declined the request for comment from "The San Francisco Standard," the first outlet to report on the matter.
Not much is known about the earlier proceedings in the case. It's been revealed that Hared entered a plea agreement already in 2019, but the details remain under seal. The agreement was struck soon after the young hacker was accused of several charges, including fraud, identity theft, and extortion.
According to an earlier release from the Department of Justice, Hared's accomplices include Anthony Francis Faulk and Matthew Ditman, all charged separately. Faulk was sentenced to 36 months in prison and "ordered to pay nearly $3 million in restitution for his role in a conspiracy to defraud more than a dozen cryptocurrency owners." Ditman's sentencing is due on October 12, 2023. The scheme run by the trio allegedly lasted from October 2016 through May 2018.
SIM swapping fraud, aka SIM card swapping or SIM hijacking, is a cybercrime involving taking control of someone else's mobile phone number. Typically, a criminal impersonating the victim contacts the mobile service provider and requests a SIM card swap, which entails transferring the target's phone number from their current SIM card to a new one in the fraudster's possession.
As a result, the victim's phone loses network connectivity, and the fraudster is able to reset passwords for various online accounts linked to the hijacked number. By using SIM swapping, hackers can gain access to email, social media, crypto, or other accounts, typically to transfer victim's assets to their wallets.