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Inside money, markets, and Big Tech

This article was published on December 19, 2019

Teen SIM-swapper allegedly stole $1M, bought custom jewelry with Bitcoin

Teen SIM-swapper allegedly stole $1M, bought custom jewelry with Bitcoin
Yessi Bello Perez
Story by

Yessi Bello Perez

Former Senior Writer, Growth Quarters

A 19-year-old SIM-swapper has been charged for allegedly stealing more than $1 million in cryptocurrency.

Yousef Selassie reportedly targeted at least 75 victims across the United States in a sophisticated SIM swapping attack.

He’s facing several charges, including identity theft and fraud.

“From his Brooklyn apartment, this defendant accessed accounts belonging to 75 victims in 20 different states,” said District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.

He added: “As alleged, in just four months he drained his victims of more than $1 million in cryptocurrency with little more than an iPhone and computer. This is the third major SIM-swapping case my Office has brought in recent months, and it won’t be the last.”

Court documents allege that Selassie accessed victims’ accounts — including Gmail, Yahoo, and Dropbox — in a bid to find out whether they held cryptocurrency accounts.

When searching his home in Brooklyn, investigators found several electronic devices and a handwritten note containing a seed phrase for a cryptocurrency wallet.

Authorities recovered multiple pieces of custom-made jewelry that he’d bought with Bitcoin.

A search of an AppleiPhone X showed artifacts linking Selassie to several known victims, while a reconstituted wallet connected him to the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency.

He was arrested in Corona, California.

A common occurrence

SIM-swapping is becoming an increasingly common crime.

Just last week, Hard Fork reported on how another alleged cryptocurrency SIM-swapper, used his stolen funds to purchase several high-end cars, a Rolex, a house, music royalties, and diamond jewelry.

In September last year, attackers stole over $200,000 worth of cryptocurrency from a professional gamer.

The issue is so widespread that engineers at Google are even looking for ways to protect users from potential attacks.

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