20-year-old hacker pleads guilty to $5 million crypto theft

February 02, 2019
Chris Wheal

Joel Ortiz, a 20-year-old college student in Santa Clara County, California, pleaded guilty to cryptocurrency theft, and accepted a plea deal of 10 years in prison. He was able to hack into the accounts of innocent victims through SIM swapping. According to Erin West, the Deputy District Attorney of Santa Clara County, California, Joel Ortiz will be officially sentenced on March 14.

crypto theft

During SIM swapping, hackers call a telecoms company and identify themselves as the victim whose identity they’re stealing at that moment. Due to the hackers knowing addresses and social security numbers of the victims they target, telecommunication company rarely finds out that something is wrong. In the meantime, hackers call and claim that their SIM card has been lost, and that they would like their new phone number to be transferred to a new card. Once their access to the phone number is granted, they can get access to any account the victim owns in a matter of minutes.

Joel Ortiz was able to steal $5 million in cryptocurrency from the accounts of 40 victims through SIM swapping, and officially became the first person sentenced for this crime.

After $1 billion was stolen in crypto during 2018, authorities across the globe are trying to find the ways to improve their tactics in order to catch criminals faster. However, due to the digital, “off-the-grid” nature of such thefts law enforcement are often not able to catch hackers on time, before the stolen crypto disappears forever. With cyber-related crime the importance of prevention is especially essential. Check out our tips on how to keep your cryptocurrency safe here.

Post written by Chris Wheal
Chris Wheal is editor of OpenLedger's news and features service. An award-wining business journalists himself, he runs a team of freelance journalists from across the UK and north America.

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