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

  • 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.

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.