The European law enforcement agency, Europol, has arrested 10 people believed to be members of the criminal gang that stole cryptocurrencies with an estimated value of $100 million. The arrests follow an international investigation into a series of sim swapping attacks that occurred in 2020. According to Europol, this criminal gang had also targeted high-profile victims that are based in the U.S.
The Hijacking of Mobile Devices
In a statement following the arrests, the law enforcement agency explains that eight members of the gang were nabbed on Feb. 9. The two other members, one from Malta and the other from Belgium, had been arrested earlier. As the statement explains, thousands of victims including “famous internet influencers, sports stars, musicians and their families” have been targeted by the sim swapping gang.
Meanwhile, in a brief explanation of how the criminal network operated, the law enforcement agency says:
The investigation uncovered how a network composed of a dozen criminals worked together to access the victims’ phone numbers and take control of their apps or accounts by changing the passwords. This enabled them to steal money, cryptocurrencies and personal information, including contacts synced with online accounts.
The agency’s investigation, which is a joint effort involving five countries, finds that these criminals were also “hijacking social media accounts to post content and send messages.”
Avoid Becoming a Victim
In the meantime, Europol also revealed that sim swapping crimes are now identified “as a key trend on the rise in the latest Europol Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment.” Consequently, the agency is reminding all potential targets of this type of crime that “anyone and everyone with a mobile phone can fall victim.”
To avoid becoming a victim, Europol is advising mobile phone users to keep their “devices’ software up to date” as well as not to reply to “suspicious emails or engage over the phone with callers that request your personal information.” Additionally, mobile phone users are encouraged to “limit the amount of personal data they share online and to use two-factor authentication for online services.”
Do you agree that sim swapping is a rising criminal threat? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.