Police in Europe dismantle gang hijacking celebrity phones, arrest 10
LONDON (AP) – Police have arrested 10 people in the UK, Belgium and Malta for allegedly hijacking cell phones belonging to American celebrities, including internet influencers, sports stars and musicians, in order to steal personal information and millions in cryptocurrency, authorities said.
European Union police agency Europol said on Wednesday the gang allegedly stole more than $ 100 million in cryptocurrency using so-called SIM swap attacks.
These attacks involve disabling a victim’s cell phone SIM card, either by fooling the phone company or using a corrupt insider, so that the number can be transferred to another card under the gang’s control.
The arrests are the result of a joint investigation by British, American, Canadian, Belgian and Maltese police, Europol said.
Europol did not specify the nationality of those caught up, but the UK’s National Crime Agency said a day earlier that eight men had been arrested in England and Scotland. Two others have already been arrested in Belgium and Malta, Europol said.
Neither agency identified the famous victims.
Investigators found that after gaining access to victims’ phone numbers, they could take control of apps or accounts by requesting password reset codes sent by text. Then they were able to steal money, cryptocurrencies and personal information, including contacts synced online, as well as hack and post from social media accounts, Europol said.
Europol has warned that the exchange of SIM cards is a growing threat led by fraudsters.
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