The victim of a SIM swapping attack that cost him $23.8 million in cryptocurrency has won a record-breaking judgment against one of the hackers.
The Los Angeles Superior Court has awarded the victim, Michael Terpin, a judgment of $75.8 million against Nicholas Truglia, the alleged leader of a SIM swapping gang once dubbed ‘Billy the Kid of Bitcoin’.
The judgment that Terpin received is comprised of the $23.8 million in cryptocurrency that was stolen from him in January 2018, plus an additional amount of more than $50 million in punitive damages.
More lawsuits pending
“We are pleased that the Court recognizes that cyber-crime is still crime, setting a precedent with its racketeering judgment against Truglia under the RICO Act,” Terpin said.
However, Terpin plans on further legal action as he notes Nicholas Truglia was just one part of a criminal gang engaging in SIM swapping, the practice of stealing someone’s phone account and moving it to a blank SIM card that the criminals control.
Thus, the criminals could gain access to any cryptocurrency accounts stored on the phone and empty them before the victim even realizes that they have essentially been locked out of their account.
Terpin also maintains that an employee of an AT&T store in Norwich, Connecticut, was an integral part of the SIM swapping attack.
“We, of course, are still actively pursuing our federal court case against AT&T. [The company’s] gross negligence we contend allowed these crimes to occur,” he said.
Police cracking down on SIM swapping criminals
SIM swapping is a type of fraud where the criminal poses as the victim in order to convince his or her mobile carrier to port the victim’s phone number to a new phone that the criminal controls.
Once they have control of the phone number, the criminal can easily obtain access to bank, email, cryptocurrency, and other accounts that require two-factor authentication (2FA).
The frequency of SIM swapping attacks – especially those related to crypto theft – is on the rise.
Last month, one cybercriminal who stole over $7.5 million in cryptocurrency through SIM swapping received a 10-year prison sentence for his crimes.
21-year-old Joel Ortiz hacked the cellphones of more than 40 people, stealing their cryptocurrency and then spending it on a lavish lifestyle.
He was arrested last year at the Los Angeles International Airport after a police task force called the Regional Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT), specially created to tackle high-tech criminal cases, managed to track him down.
The most recent SIM swapping crackdown occurred yesterday when the U.S. Justice Department charged nine men with multiple counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
Eight members of the group, which calls itself “The Community”, are U.S. residents, while the ninth is from Ireland.
Three of the men had previously worked for mobile phone service providers, two with AT&T and one with Verizon.
The group stole US$2.4 million in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies during their crime spree, which lasted from December 2017 through May 2018.
Each count of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud has a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison while identity theft carries a sentence of two years.