College Student Steals $5 Million In Cryptocurrency After Hijacking Victim’s Phone Numbers

  • Joel Ortiz, a 20-year-old college student, reportedly stole $5 million in cryptocurrency.
  • The digital currency was stolen after Ortiz hijacked the victim’s phone numbers and used them to hack their crypto accounts.

Joel Ortiz, a 20-year-old college student, was recently arrested after reportedly stealing more than $5 million in Bitcoin (BTC). Ortiz and a few unnamed others allegedly hacked over 40 phone numbers belonging to crypto traders and investors, as per court papers shared by Motherboard’s website.

Based on reports, the college student used a simple SIM-swapping method that exploited the security system of the victim’s phone carrier by replacing their phone number with a SIM accessible to the criminals. Ortiz then used the hacked phone numbers to obtain access to the users’ two-factor authentication (2FA) codes.

Consensus Blockchain Conference

The student was then able to log into the victim’s crypto accounts, change their passwords, and steal their digital currency. Authorities believe this incident is linked to the popular Consensus Conference that was held in New York in May, during which over $1.5 million in cryptocurrency was reportedly stolen from a blockchain professional.

The court papers also noted that Ortiz had been involved in a number of other attacks reported in February and March 2018. One of the victims is believed to have been targeted multiple times when Ortiz changed their passwords and locked the user out of their accounts, while also enabling his own two-factor authentication.

Warrants Sent To AT&T And Google

After gaining control of the crypto investor’s account, Ortiz sent a message to his family stating, “TELL YOUR DAD TO GIVE US BITCOIN” through iMessage. Police officers were eventually able to trace the college student’s malicious activities and proceeded to send a warrant to AT&T (his phone carrier).

The warrant required the phone service provider to submit a call record to the authorities, which was used to determine the dates on which Ortiz hacked the phone numbers. After the investigation it was found that the international mobile equipment identity (IMEI) number of the hacker belonged to Ortiz’s Samsung smartphone.

In order to further track the college student’s criminal activities, Google was also sent a warrant, which was used to obtain email addresses and other personal information linked to Ortiz’s phone. This led to evidence that has helped the authorities recover about $250,000 worth of cryptocurrency stolen by Ortiz. The police stated that they are currently unable to locate the rest of the stolen funds but are still investigating the incident.

Ortiz was arrested on July 12th at Los Angeles International Airport where he was about to board a plane to Europe. His arrest came just one day after 28 charges had been filed against him, which include 2 counts of grand theft, 13 counts of identity theft and fraud, and 13 counts of exploitative hacking.

In reference to this incident, the court papers stated,

This is the first reported case against someone who allegedly used the increasingly popular technique known as SIM swapping or SIM hijacking to steal bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies, and social media accounts.

Opera Browser Adds Direct Bitcoin Payment to Its Built-in Cryptocurrency Wallet

The popular Opera web browser has added bitcoin e-commerce support and integrated TRON into its built-in cryptocurrency wallet on Android devices.

According to the company’s press release, the built-in crypto wallet on Opera for Android, which was launched last year, now supports bitcoin payments directly, and allows users to interact with decentralized applications on the TRON blockchain using TRX.

The browser claims to have a total of 350 million users, which can now have access to these two cryptocurrencies. The company’s crypto wallet started off with Ethereum support in a bid to offer users access to “web 3.0.”

Charles Hamel, the head of crypto at Opera, was quoted as saying:

We believe that opening our browser to more blockchains, including Bitcoin, is the logical next step to making our solution more relevant to anyone who has a Bitcoin crypto wallet and would like to do things with their cryptocurrencies beyond just keeping them in an account.

As CryptoGlobe reported the browser firm has partnered with HTC – which recently announced a new budget smartphone with bitcoin node features – to add its app to it. It has also revealed it was looking to add “multiple blockchains” in the near future.

The company added in its press releases that by adding TRON its exposes TRX and its decentralized applications to “millions of daily active users across 120 countries,” as TRX’s ecosystem includes BitTorrent as well.

Featured image by Panos Sakalakis on Unsplash.