New StopSIMCrime Initiative Helps Victims Of SIM Swapping Scams, Pressures Telecom Giants To Protect Customers


Victims Of A SIM Swapping Scam Are Pressuring Telecommunications Giants To Protect Customers

Cybercrime is one of the mediums of crime that has continued to climb over the course of 2017 & 2018. Over the span of last year, for example, there were reports of hundreds, and possibly even thousands of mobile users being subject to phone hijacking by hackers.

These hackers were making use of a technique referred to as SIM Swapping in order to gain access to a users social media accounts, and even their cryptocurrencies. SIM Swapping itself is a process where the perpetrators are able to seize control of a victims mobile phone, as well as their number, allowing them to steal what is reported to be millions of dollars worth of various cryptocurrencies.

With this form of crime continuing to wreck havoc upon mobile phone users, a small segment of these victims is now piling on the pressure for telecom groups to do something about it.

One of these groups, for example, led by the tech veteran Robert Ross, have been driving at an initiative in order to make more people aware of the dangers of SIM swapping, and help to keep them vigilant about the scam. The group also wants to help victims by providing them with resources, as well as prevent future activity by pressuring telecommunication companies and mobile phone companies to do more to prevent this activity.

Ross himself has not been a stranger to these devastating hacks, having lost approximately $1 million from his Coinbase and Gemini accounts in 2018 due to SIM swapping.

“SIM Swapping is a major problem and it's growing fast,” Ross explained. “I honestly believe this is something that is being enabled by cell phone carriers.”

Under Ross, the group is calling its initiative ‘StopSIMCrime,' according to an announcement he made on Tuesday, both to the media and via his website.

The overall objective of this site is to serve as a hub of information for those that have been subject to SIM Swapping, while also providing information for those concerned about becoming a potential target. In the confines of the site, there's a segment for FAQs, which provides information on what a SIM Swapping attack is, as well as how to make it harder for potential hackers or even prevent them from compromising you.

The site will also offer a number of other pages, providing links to relevant articles, including documentation from criminal and civil court cases leveraged against known perpetrators of SIM Swapping.

Along with this information, it provides a number of invaluable links and contacts to prevention organizations, including the Regional Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT), which is a task force based in the tech hub of California – Silicon Valley. The REACT has helped lead the legal battles in high profile cases against scammers using SIM Swaps.

These cases have included the arrests of Joel Ortiz, Nicholas Truglia, as well as Xzavyer Narvaez – all of which were accused of subjecting victims to SIM Swapping scams, resulting in the theft of millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency from their digital wallets

During a call, Ross stated that he initially proposed the site and overall project when he became one of the unfortunate victims of these attacks in late 2018. It all started with him on Friday when he saw a series of notifications flash up on his phone. These were from the two-factor authentication provider – Autheny.

Within these notifications, Ross himself was alerted to the fact that a new device had since been registered to his account, meaning that there was also a new connection added to his Gemini cryptocurrency account. Shortly after this notification came another, which asked him to authorize a withdrawal of his funds. Before he could do anything, his Gmail account was logged out.

When Ross found that his cell phone had lost service, he realized that he was subject to an attack. This happens because hackers had successfully taken control of his cell phone number as well as accounts.

“The first thing I immediately said to myself was ‘Oh god, I'm under attack',” Ross explained. “I completely lost my head and didn't honestly know what to do at that moment.”

The fear going through Ross at this point is understandable, especially since the toll it took on his life savings proved devastating. In total, they stole “a majority of my life savings,” over $1 million. When this had happened, Ross was completely unfamiliar with the term SIM Hijacking / SIM Swapping before. So one of the first lessons he had to learn was how exactly you go about regaining control of your life digitally, and then to go some way to remediate the damage that has been wrought by these hackers.

Ross went on to explain that, from the outset, there is actually very little in the way of online documentation, as well as precious little advice online when it comes to countering this activity, and how users would go about regaining their phone number, or even how attackers are able to take control of it in the first place. That is exactly what Ross wants to set right with his groups' site.

While the project's goals are relatively broad for the moment, with goals like pressing for new legislation to help people take legal action against ineffectual carriers. One of the victims has also helped Ross over the latter part of December / Early January. Michael Terpin managed to help Ross sue AT&T, asking for over $200 million in personal damages.

It is Ross' belief that more victims will use this case as a rallying point to take action against their own cell phone providers.

“If we can't combine lawsuits, then we want to work to combine our resources,” He proclaimed, illustrating the fact that carriers have regulations in place which prevent customers coming forward with a class action lawsuit.

At this moment in time: AT&T, Sprint and Verizon have yet to comment to requests for information.

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