Stealing (or potentially aiding in the theft of) cryptocurrency is a bad idea. It doesn’t matter how big or powerful you think you are… You’re likely to get hit hard in the end. This is a lesson that’s now being learned by executives at AT&T.
AT&T Is Heading Towards the Legal Arena
A federal judge is allowing a case to move forward against the telecommunications giant over a recent case of SIM-swapping, in which Michael Terpin – a bitcoin and cryptocurrency entrepreneur – allegedly lost his cryptocurrency funds through a hacker that potentially garnered the assistance of an insider at the phone company.
SIM-swapping is a hacking method that’s becoming more and more popular amongst malicious actors. Individuals will often garner a person’s social security number and other private information, such as their birth date, etc. They then contact the person’s phone provider asking that the telephone number be transferred to a separate SIM card. They have all the right information, i.e. SSN, which they provide to the company employee.
The corporate worker, acknowledging that they have the correct data, believe the hacker to be the original owner of the phone and perform the transfer without thought. From there, the hacker can access the original owner’s accounts. This includes crypto or digital wallets.
If a hacker is given a problem by the employee, they may try using a bribe. Sometimes, a little side money is enough to make the person do what they’re told without asking too many questions.
Terpin alleges he lost over $24 million in cryptocurrency funds when a hacker swapped his SIM card with the help of at least one AT&T employee. He is suing the company for over $200 million which includes punitive damages and the money he lost to the hacker.
Terpin’s attorney Pierce O’Donnell explained in a statement:
The evidence will show that AT&T not once, but twice allowed hackers posing as Michael to obtain his SIM card.
AT&T denies the allegations and originally tried to get the case dismissed, but a federal judge working in a Los Angeles court room has said “no.” The suit is now moving forward, and AT&T has exclaimed:
We dispute these allegations and look forward to presenting our case in court.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself and Your Money
Terpin says he was the victim of two separate SIM-swapping hacks that occurred within seven months from each other. He comments:
What AT&T did was like a hotel giving a thief with a fake ID a room key and a key to the room safe to steal jewelry in the safe from the rightful owner.
The problems associated with SIM-swapping have become more common in recent years. Many cybersecurity experts suggest storing your crypto funds offline or in “cold storage” to make them harder to steal.
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