How a Hacker Stole $1M in Crypto by Remotely Hijacking His Victim’s Cell Phone

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  • Nicholas Truglia, 21, hacked into the phones of multiple Silicon Valley executives, according to officials.
  • In one case, he was able to get away with $1 million from cryptocurrency accounts the victim says he had been saving to pay for his daughters’ college tuition.
  • The crime is known as “SIM swapping,” where a hacker takes over a phone number by duping wireless carriers, then uses that information to access and drain cryptocurrency accounts.
  • “It’s a whole new wave of crime,” says Erin West, deputy district attorney for Santa Clara County.
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Losing cellphone service is inconvenient. But in some cases, it also might mean you’re getting hacked.

San Francisco resident Robert Ross, a father of two, noticed his phone suddenly lose its signal on Oct. 26. Confused, he went to a nearby Apple store and later contacted his service provider, AT&T. But he wasn’t quick enough to stop a hacker from draining $500,000 from two separate accounts he had at Coinbase and Gemini, according to Santa Clara officials.

Nicholas Truglia, 21, lifted the $1 million from Ross’ two cryptocurrency accounts, according to a felony complaint filed this month in California state court. Prosecutors say Truglia also hacked the phones of multiple Silicon Valley executives but was not able to rob their accounts.

“It’s a whole new wave of crime,” said Erin West, the deputy district attorney of Santa Clara County. “It’s a new way of stealing of money: They target people that they believe to have cryptocurrency,” she told CNBC.

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