The U.S. Department of Justice charged two men on Wednesday in connection with a two-year-old scheme in which they allegedly stole victims’ phone numbers to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cryptocurrency.
Two Massachusetts men, Eric Meiggs and Declan Harrington, tried to steal more than $550,000 in cryptocurrency from at least 10 victims throughout the U.S. since November 2017, according to the indictment. The two men were arrested Thursday and charged in U.S. District Court in Boston.
The scheme relied on convincing cell phone carriers to pass on phone numbers from the SIM card in victims’ phones to SIM cards in phones the suspects controlled. Thieves allegedly targeted executives at cryptocurrency companies, and other individuals that had access to large amounts of cryptocurrency.
Upon taking control of victims’ phone numbers, scammers then would pose as those individuals, access their email, social media and cryptocurrency accounts to reset passwords or credentials, and steal funds.
In one case, the indictment says, someone in the conspiracy abused their access to a victim’s phone to call the victim’s wife, and send a text message to the victim’s daughter saying, “TELL YOUR DAD TO GIVE US THE BITCOIN.” That victim lost roughly $10,000 of cryptocurrency as a result of this fraud, the indictment says.
Attorneys for the two men could not immediately be reached for comment.
The indictment alleges the men at times also posed as the victims on these hacked accounts and asked family members or friends for money or cryptocurrency.
The government is bringing 11 counts against the two identified men, including eight counts of wire fraud, one count of computer fraud and abuse, one count of aggravated identity theft, and one count of conspiracy.
This is not the first time the Department of Justice has taken action to stifle SIM swapping activity. In May it charged nine people in connection with a SIM hijacking scheme that stole nearly $2.5 million worth of cryptocurrency. In February it also indicted two men in relation to a scheme to ripoff cryptocurrency through SIM swapping.
The full indictment is available below.