On 1 February 2019, Motherboard, a division of news outlet VICE, reported that Joel Ortiz, aged 20, pleaded guilty to theft of $5 million worth of cryptocurrencies. According to the Deputy District Attorney of Santa Clara County Erin West, Ortiz reportedly accepted a plea deal that would send him to prison for 10 years and would be officially sentenced on 14 March 2019. It was reported that Ortiz would be the first individual to be punished by law for the crime of SIM swapping.
SIM swapping is an act where hackers would pretend to be a targeted individual and call telecommunication companies reporting that they have lost their SIM card and required a new one. The hackers would prepare the target’s social security numbers, addresses or other personal information beforehand to convince the company that they are indeed who they claimed to be. Once a new SIM is successfully obtained, hackers could easily access all the target’s financial accounts by recovering information using the target’s phone number.
Samy Tarazi, an agent that aided in the case’s investigations, commented that he hoped the conviction of Ortiz would act as a message to the criminals who exploited SIM Swapping for their own benefits.
The easiness in which SIM swapping provided criminals was a huge reason why the method was so widely used. By knowing certain information of a specific person, criminals could easily siphon the victim’s assets without him or her knowing.
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