10 arrested for hijacking phones of celebs after large European investigation
10 people in the UK, Belgium and Malta have been arrested for allegedly hijacking mobile phones belonging to US celebrities including social media influencers, sports stars and musicians to steal personal information and millions in cryptocurrency.
Europol said the gang is believed to have stolen more than $100 million in cryptocurrency, authorities say.
The attacks involve deactivating a victim’s mobile phone SIM card, either by tricking the phone company or using a corrupt insider, so the number can be transferred to another card under the gang’s control.
The arrests were the result of a joint investigation by the UK, US, Canada, Belgium and Maltese police, Europol said.
Europol hasn’t specified the nationalities of those caught in the sweep, but the UK’s National Crime Agency said a day earlier that eight men were arrested in England and Scotland. Two others were arrested previously in Belgium and Malta, Europol said.
Neither agency identified the celebrity victims.
The investigation found, after accessing victims’ phone numbers, they were able to take control of apps or accounts by requesting password reset codes sent via SMS. Then they were able to steal money, cryptocurrencies and personal information, including contacts synced online, as well as hack into and post from social media accounts, Europol said.
Europol has warned that SIM swapping is a growing threat carried out by fraudsters.
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