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SIM Card Swap: The $1 Million Cell Phone Theft

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

If you haven't lost your cell phone before, consider yourself lucky or at least not forgetful.

If someone has stolen your phone before, join the club. Millions of cell phones are stolen every year. At hundreds of dollars a pop, it's big business.

For one unlucky executive, however, it was a million dollar loss. Some kid hacked the man's phone and cleaned out his accounts.

$1 Million Phone Hack

Robert Ross, a Silicon Valley executive, had $1 million in cryptocurrency. He monitored it from his cell phone.

On Oct. 26, however, it suddenly went dark. When he turned it back on, he discovered $500,000 missing from each of his Coinbase and Gemini accounts.

Police arrested Nicholas Truglia, a 21-year-old in Manhattan who allegedly hacked into the victim's phone. Authorities accused him of running a SIM card-swapping scheme out of his apartment.

According to reports, Truglia targeted five other people. They included Saswata Basu, the CEO of blockchain storage system 0Chain; Myles Danielsen, vice president of Hall Capital Partners; and Gabrielle Katsnelson, founder of the startup SMBX.

New Type of Identify Theft

Truglia reportedly could not directly hack bank accounts, but got in through phone SIM cards. Experts say swap fraud is a pervasive problem, "a new way of doing an old crime."

Thieves target a victim, create a false identity, then call the victim's cell phone provider. They claim to have lost the cell phone and ask to activate a new SIM card.

Agents were able to recover $300,000 from Truglia's hardware wallet. But in a few cell phone seconds, he stole one man's life savings.

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