Federal prosecutors have indicted two men for SIM swapping and committing “device fraud, extortion, and aggravated identity theft.”
One of the hallmarks of innovative technology is that law enforcement takes some time to catch up. The creation of Bitcoin, smartphones, and the internet have led to a veritable playground for criminals to run amok in. It seems that criminal cunning is the first to unlock the dark side of technology, such as ransomware and hacking, but the guys with the tin stars and white hats do eventually get caught up. Evidence of this is the increasing apprehension and prosecution of those engaged in SIM swapping.
SIM Swapping Indictments
SIM swapping is when criminals convince cell phone providers to transfer the victim’s phone number to the criminal’s SIM card, thus gaining control of the account. The downside for cryptocurrency users is that the criminals are then able to intercept crypto wallet passwords sent via SMS as an additional layer of security.
Millions of dollars in cryptocurrency have been stolen by SIM swappers, but the police have made some notable arrests recently. Two of the latest are Ahmad Wagaafe Hared, age 21, and Matthew Gene Ditman, age 23. The two were just indicted by a federal grand jury for “conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse, conspiracy to commit access device fraud, extortion, and aggravated identity theft.”
Hared hails from Tuscon, Arizona, while Ditman resides in Las Vega, Nevada. The two worked with other conspirators to gain access to the email and cryptocurrency wallets of their victims after stealing their phone accounts. In addition, they extorted their victims as well.
Looking at Serious Time
The pair have made their initial court appearance and were released on bond. Ditman is scheduled to appear in court next on February 6th while Hared will do so on February 13th. They each face five counts, and if convicted, can face up to 19 years in prison and total fines of up to a million dollars.
This indictment follows on the heels of the plea deal accepted by Joel Ortiz, a SIM swapper from Boston, Massachusetts. He stole $5 million in cryptocurrency through SIM swapping and was arrested as he was trying to leave the country. He accepted a plea deal that dished out 10 years of jail time.
Another SIM swapper, Dawson Bakies, was indicted on February 1st in New York for stealing the accounts and identities of more than 50 victims. In a statement, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. says:
Today my Office is putting the small handful of sophisticated ‘SIM Swappers’ out there on notice. We know what you’re doing, we know how to find you, and we will hold you criminally accountable, no matter where you are. We’re also asking wireless carriers to wake up to the new reality that by quickly porting SIMs – in order to ease new activations and provide speedy customer service – you are exposing unwitting, law-abiding customers to massive identity theft and fraud. I encourage victims, members of the hacking community, and wireless company employees who are aware of SIM swapping schemes to report them directly to our Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau at 212-335-9600.
It may take some time, but the reality is that law enforcement does eventually catch up to tech-savvy criminals. In the meantime, it’s best to protect yourself from such attacks by using service providers that offer a distinct and different password needed to port your account and not linking your cell phone number to online accounts.
What do you think about these recent indictments for SIM swapping? Let us know in the comments below.
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