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Cybercriminals cleanout cryptocurrency using sim card swap scam

Victim lost $15K in crypto
Posted at 5:21 PM, Jan 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-26 18:28:52-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa resident David Bryant knew something was wrong last October when he found Coinbase notifications deleted from his account and his login no longer worked. Then, when he tried to call his crypto account holder, he discovered his cell was unable to make or receive calls.

It turned out, this was not a confluence of coincidences. Bryant was the victim of a crime.

Thieves stole David’s email and his phone number in order to intercept his two-factor identification code. Once they had access to his Coinbase account, they emptied it out.

“I lost about $15,000 dollars worth of crypto,” David said.

It was money he planned to use to help pay for some of his daughter’s college education.

David was the victim of what is known as “sim swap fraud.” According to the Federal Trade Commission, it’s a growing crime. Criminals call and convince your wireless provider they are you and need your phone number switched to a new carrier and a new sim card that they control.

And with the proliferation of using phones for extra security, that number opens up Pandora's box to your accounts.

“Typically they will get access to a computer or email account (and) from there they can get preliminary access to finding out what's in someone's crypto or banking accounts,” said Cyber Security expert Ryan Malize.

That's why it's crucial for consumers to double down on securing their data and devices.

To protect yourself:

  • Use strong passwords, changed regularly, and recorded securely using password management tools like LastPass 
  • Enable multi-factor authentication for all accounts, including email

For more protection, Malize suggested downloading what's known as a 2nd-factor app. It generates a one-time code on your actual device, not a text, in order to access your accounts.

In David’s case, the thieves also swiped $2,000 out of a checking account he linked to Coinbase.

“They said there is nothing they can do because these transactions are irreversible,” David said.

ABC Action News Investigator Jackie Callaway reached out to David’s cell provider,TracFone. The company replied with a statement.

“We recently became aware of bad actors fraudulently transferring, or porting out, some TracFone mobile telephone numbers to other carriers. Since uncovering this activity, we have made security enhancements to customers’ mobile accounts and are working directly with customers who have been impacted.” 

The company also asked affected customers to contact them. 

If you are the target of a sim swap scam, contact your cell provider immediately and regain control of your number. Then immediately change all your account passwords and report any authorized charges to the bank or company.