Sim Swapping Identity Thief Indicted For Hacking Crypto Accounts

Crime, News | February 4, 2019 By:

A 20-year-old Ohio man has been indicted for allegedly stealing the identities and funds, including cryptocurrencies, of more than 50 victims in a “SIM swapping” scheme.

SIM swapping is a type of account takeover fraud that generally targets a weakness in two-factor authentication and two-step verification, where the second factor or step is an SMS or a call placed to a mobile telephone. Once the phone number has been “ported” to the thief’s phone, the thief can then receive or place calls using the stolen number and purporting to be the victim. The thief can also intercept text messages containing security codes needed to access the victim’s bank or crypto accounts.

In an official press release, the Manhattan District Attorney (DA) said that the defendant, Dawson Bakies, executed the SIM swapping scheme from his Ohio home, where he fraudulently ported the cell phone numbers of at least 50 different individuals across the US to multiple iPhones in his possession. The defendant successfully accessed 18 online accounts belonging to three Manhattan-based victims, including their Google accounts and several crypto accounts, and changed the passwords on the accounts in order to prevent the victims from regaining control. Bakies reportedly stole approximately $10,000 in cryptocurrency from these three victims and attempted extortion of one of the victims, demanding a ransom to be paid in bitcoin.

Bakies is charged in a New York State Supreme Court indictment with identity theft, grand larceny, computer tampering, and scheme to defraud, among other charges.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. said that his office is “putting the small handful of sophisticated ‘SIM Swappers’ out there on notice.

“We know what you’re doing, we know how to find you, and we will hold you criminally accountable, no matter where you are,” Vance said. “We’re also asking wireless carriers to wake up to the new reality that by quickly porting SIMs – in order to ease new activations and provide speedy customer service – you are exposing unwitting, law-abiding customers to massive identity theft and fraud.”