Celebrities Lose Millions in SIM Swap Heist

  • By Dawna M. Roberts
  • Mar 04, 2021

 The Hacker News reported last week that celebrities had lost millions in a SIM swapping heist. U.S. authorities have arrested ten individuals accused of hijacking cell phones for high-profile Americans.

What Happened?

The bust was the culmination of a year-long investigation that included the U.S., the U.K., Belgium, Malta, and Canada.

The Hacker News said that, “The attacks orchestrated by this criminal gang targeted thousands of victims throughout 2020, including famous internet influencers, sports stars, musicians and their families,” Europol said in a statement. “The criminals are believed to have stolen from them over $100 million in cryptocurrencies after illegally gaining access to their phones.”

Eight of the suspects are between the ages of 18-26. Two of them were arrested in Malta and Belgium, and the rest were arrested in England and Scotland. Along with the arrests, Europol dismantled two SIM swapping operations that stole more than $3.9 million in 100 attacks covering the U.S. and Austria.

How it is Done

The way this works is that typically criminals coerce a cell phone carrier to swap out SIM cards with ones that are infected with malware and controllable by hackers. Using the new, infected SIM card, the hackers are able to listen in on calls, steal text messages, verification codes (with two-factor authentication), and websites for logins all over the web.

The criminals used this personal information to steal roughly $100 million in 2020. Along with the victims’ information, hackers were able to steal information about each victim’s contacts as well.

The Hacker News said,

“‘They also hijacked social media accounts to post content and send messages masquerading as the victim,’ the U.S. Secret Service said.”

The suspects will face Computer and Misuse Act charges and be prosecuted for fraud and money laundering. Officials expect these criminals to be extradited to the U.S.

What is SIM Swapping?

SIM swapping may be performed by physically replacing the SIM card in your phone or providing certain information to the phone carrier, which then loads it into the system.

In many cases, fraudsters perform SIM swapping to take over your phone number. They may call the carrier, use the information found online about you to trick them into believing it is you, and then transfer the service of your phone number to their phone.

With access to your phone number in hand, they can hack into all your accounts associated with your phone number. They can access your email, receive 2FA text messages and even gain access to your financial accounts to drain those as well. The most terrifying is if they get into these accounts, they could change the password locking you out. SIM swapping is a serious crime, and you should do all you can to avoid it at all costs.

How to Avoid SIM Swapping

Most phone carriers have built-in protections against this type of scam. Log onto your carrier and turn on any extra authentication such as 2FA or asking for the credit card on file to verify that it is you.

  • Keep your device updated with the latest security patches and OS.
  • Try not to associate your online accounts with your phone.
  • Never share your information online.
  • Set up 2FA through apps rather than SMS. 
  • Use super strong passcodes on all accounts.
  • Never use personal information in passwords (since hackers already have a lot of that found online).
  • Keep track of your cell phone at all times. It takes only seconds to replace a SIM card.
  • Never use public Wi-Fi to access personal or sensitive financial accounts.
About the Author
IDStrong Logo

Related Articles

Instagram Vulnerability Allowed Hackers Access to Control Your Phone

Security experts Check Point Research discovered a critical vulnerability while examining Instagra ... Read More

Alien Malware Infects More than 226 Mobile Apps and Steals Bank Data

As reported on September 24, 2020, by ZDNet and ThreatPost, a new strain of malware named “A ... Read More

Universal Health Systems Hit by Ransomware Attack

Universal Health Systems (UHS), a Fortune 500 company owning more than 400 hospitals across the co ... Read More

Exchange Server Bug Exposes a Big Risk to Hackers

Months after Microsoft released a patch to fix a serious flaw in MS Exchange Server, more than 61% ... Read More

Clients’ Bank Data Exposed in Blackbaud Ransomware Attack

Blackbaud software was victim to a ransomware attack last May, and new information suggests that c ... Read More

Latest Articles

ChatGPT Suffered From a Major Data Breach Exposing its Subscribers

ChatGPT Suffered From a Major Data Breach Exposing its Subscribers

ChatGPT is OpenAi's chatbot designed to simulate conversations with other people. The tool utilizes a massive language model to produce realistic and believable responses for a conversation.

Weekly Cybersecurity Recap March 24

Weekly Cybersecurity Recap March 24

Cyber-attacks are a major problem that exposes millions of people to fraud on an annual basis. This week there were attacks on some truly massive organizations like the NBA and PayPal, as well as a cyber security company and a few medical companies.

Independent Living Systems LLC Gets Hacked, Exposing 4 Million Patients

Independent Living Systems LLC Gets Hacked, Exposing 4 Million Patients

Independent Living Systems LLC is a healthcare facility provider for the elderly, physically challenged, and impaired. The company establishes short-term healthcare facilities for those that need extra care.

Featured Articles

How to Buy a House with Bad Credit

How to Buy a House with Bad Credit

Buying your own home is the American Dream, but it might seem out of reach to those with bad credit. However, the good news is, if your credit is less than perfect, you do still have options and in most cases, can still buy a home.

How Secure Is Your Password? Tips to Improve Your Password Security

How Secure Is Your Password? Tips to Improve Your Password Security

Any good IT article on computers and network security will address the importance of strong, secure passwords. However, the challenge of good passwords is that most people have a hard time remembering them, so they use simple or obvious ones that pose a security risk.

Top 10 Senior Scams and How to Prevent Them

Top 10 Senior Scams and How to Prevent Them

Senior scams are becoming a major epidemic for two reasons. First, seniors often have a lot of money in the bank from a life of working hard and saving.

Free Identity Threat Scan
Instantly Check if Your Personal Information is Exposed
All fields below are required
Please enter first name
Please enter last name
Please enter a city
Please select a state
Please enter an email address