European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, better known as Europol arrested a criminal gang who hacked more than $100 million in cryptocurrencies by illegally gaining access to the phones of famous people. The criminals are believed to have hijacked phone numbers through ‘SIM swapping’ which allowed them to gain access to the victims’ mobile apps and cryptocurrency accounts through their phone numbers.
A total of 8 people were arrested on 9 February after 2 others were previously taken into custody in Malta and Belgium.
Europol believed that the people who were arrested are part of a criminal gang that apparently targeted thousands of victims throughout last year. Some of the victims included “internet influencers, sports stars, musicians” as well as their families.
The investigation, which began in the spring of 2020, was jointly conducted by law enforcement authorities from UK, US, Belgium, Malta and Canada.
Authorities uncovered a network that has a “dozen criminals” that “worked together to access the victims’ phone numbers,” which enabled them to steal not only money and cryptocurrencies but personal information, which included “contacts synced with online accounts.” The criminals also took control of victims’ social media accounts “to post content and send messages masquerading as the victim.”
The latest Europol Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment identified ‘sim swapping’ as “a key trend on the rise”
Last month, Europol seized Bitcoin, XRP, ETH in a scam operation allegedly involving over 1,000 victims. The investigation that involved house searches led to the seizure of €70 000 (about $84,876) in fiat money and cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Ripple (XRP), OmiseGo (OMG).