Posted on August 3, 2018 at 2:24 AM
Cryptocurrency hacking has taken a big turn. A 20-year-old college student from California has been arrested for stealing $5 million worth of Bitcoin by hacking phone numbers and demanding ransoms.
Joel Ortiz, a 20-year-old Boston native, was apprehended July 12 in California at the L.A. International Airport minutes before he was to catch a plane headed to Europe. Ortiz is facing a total of 28 charges. 13 of those for hacking, another 13 for identity theft, and 2 charges of grand theft (without the auto).
When the 20-year-old was apprehended, he was sporting a Gucci bag along with several other high priced items, believed to have been purchased with some of the stolen money. Upon being arrested, Ortiz was quick to tell authorities that he and his accomplices have access to several million in cryptocurrency.
SIM Swapping—The Hack
In a new wave of SIM Swapping hacks, thieves simply convince the cell phone carrier, such as Verizon, to transfer the victims’ phone number to a SIM card they control. Then, they use that number reset passwords and bypass two-factor authentication security systems.
Scams like these are hard to stop by the victims because the number is controlled by your carrier. You may have taken every possible action toward stopping such incidents from occurring, but ultimately, your carrier stands as a weak point in your otherwise strong security gate.
Police reports state the Ortiz had managed to pull off a one and a half million dollar bitcoin heist by hacking a single cryptocurrency entrepreneur while the Consensus conference in New York was going on.
The entrepreneur stated, “I looked at my phone and it was dead.” Almost immediately he took off on a full sprint to the nearest AT&T Retailer, but it was too late. Ortiz had already reset his Gmail login code and gained access to his cryptocurrency wallets.
Ortiz was part of OGUSERS, a community of SIM hijackers
OGUSERS serves as a money making website for several SIM hijackers. After pulling off the SIM hijack, they use their newly stolen information to take control of valuable social media accounts. They then sell these accounts to people through the OGUSERS website.
Ortiz is believed to have control of several high profile single letter/single number media accounts. These accounts are known to sell for several thousand, just another way thieves have taken advantage of the digital age.
Ortiz was Violent
Joel Ortiz apparently couldn’t get enough after hacking an investor involved with blockchain projects. Ortiz stole the man’s information not once, but twice within a one month spree earlier this year.
The second theft involved Ortiz confronting the victim’s wife and daughter, demanding more bitcoin. An iMessage conversation which is being used in court against Ortiz, shows him yelling at the man’s daughter demanding that she convince her father to send them bitcoin.
Police managed to catch up with Ortiz after the investor mentioned above, informed authorities of the hacking. A warrant gave police access to phone call records during the time that the phone was under Ortiz’ control.
AT&T showed a Samsung device was being used during the hack. After the victim confirmed that he did not own any Samsung models, authorities were able to track the IMEI numbers and linked them to two accounts: a Microsoft Live account and a Gmail account as well.
There was more than enough evidence pointing the finger toward Ortiz. Feeling confident, the cops served warrants to Coinbase, Binance, and Bittrex, where it was found that Ortiz had moved more than $1 million in different cryptocurrencies using the exchange websites.
$250,000 worth of cryptocurrency was seized from Ortiz. Authorities have no clue where the rest is being hidden.
OGUSERS No More
The forum has banned a few users known to be SIM hackers, but after Ortiz’ arrest, several members from the OGUSERS website simply disappeared. Talk around the site shows that many users are fearing more arrests. A post entitled “Who do you think is next?” showed up after Ortiz’ apprehension.
Joel Ortiz will stand before the judge on August 9 for his plea hearing. Ortiz has yet to post bail, which is $1 million.