A plan to steal cryptocurrency and hard-to-find social media accounts has ended with one schemer set to spend at least two years in prison.
Eric Meiggs, a 23-year-old Massachusetts man, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to participating in a plan to steal social media account names and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bitcoin, the U.S. Department of Justice announced. Meiggs and a team of associates used SIM swapping, a practice in which scammers take control of victims’ phone numbers, to try to steal more than $530,000 in cryptocurrency from 10 people, DOJ said.
SIM swapping is the process by which attackers convince a victim’s phone carrier to transfer control of a phone number to an attacker, or group of scammers. From there, the intruders abuse access to that phone number to gather passwords, financial transactions or other sensitive data associated with that number. In recent years, thieves have prioritized the theft of bitcoin and valuable social media names, known as “OG,” or “original gangster,” accounts.
The plea comes amid ongoing attention from U.S. law enforcement officials as they grapple with the emergence of new technologies, and widespread interest in cryptocurrency.
In unrelated cases, federal agents on Tuesday announced the arrest of a Russian-Swedish national accused of operating a bitcoin laundering services on behalf of cybercriminals, while international officials this year uncovered a global ring dedicated to accessing celebrities’ social media accounts. The most high-profile example of such a crime came last year, when a small crew breached Twitter accounts belonging to numerous public figures as part of yet another fraud.
Meiggs faces a mandatory minimum sentence of two years when he is due to be sentenced in September.
Meiggs and his associates took control of two OG account identities as part of their fraud efforts, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.
In one case, the defendants accessed a victim’s Facebook and Gmail accounts in March 2018, sent messages to the victim’s contacts and convinced one person to send them $100,000 in cryptocurrency, according to the original indictment. Later, the thieves contacted the daughter of another victim and sent her a text message saying, “TELL YOUR DAD TO GIVE US BITCOIN.”
In yet another case, according to the Justice Department, Meiggs sent a number of Twitter messages to another victim trying to convince them to turn over control of their Instagram handle. At one point, Meiggs told the victim’s mother to “just give up,” according to the charges.
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