17.01.2021

US Authorities Arrest Alleged SIM Swappers After Crypto Thefts

According to a press release, the U.S. Department of Justice has charged Eric Meiggs, 21 and Declan Harrington, 20, on counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, computer fraud, abuse and identity theft for allegedly targeting cryptocurrency company executives and other individuals “who likely had significant amounts of cryptocurrency,” as well as those “who had high value or ‘OG’ (slang for ‘Original Gangster’) social media account names.”

The FBI arrested two Massachusetts residents Thursday on charges of attempting to steal cryptocurrency and hijack social media accounts from individuals by “SIM swapping” their phones.

The two allegedly sought to steal more than $550,000 in cryptocurrency from 10 different individuals, and apparently secured access to two social media accounts.

The victims were not identified, though the indictment briefly described several of their connections to the crypto space. One victim owned a bitcoin teller machine, while another ran a “blockchain-based business.”

A number of individuals in the cryptocurrency space have fallen victim to SIM swapping, when attackers pose as the owners of a cell phone number, convincing cellular service providers to give them access to the victims’ accounts. By taking control of a cell phone number, attackers are able to log into social media and sometimes crypto exchange accounts, giving them access to users’ holdings and digital presence.

Messari’s Ryan Selkis, Coin Center’s Neeraj Agrawal and VideoCoin’s Seth Shapiro have all reported facing such issues in recent weeks.

Michael Terpin, a prominent investor in the crypto space, has filed lawsuits after being SIM swapped, taking on both his mobile provider AT&T and the alleged perpetrator. While his case against AT&T is ongoing, he won $75 million in a case against Manhattan resident Nicholas Truglia, 21.

Similarly, Seattle-based Gregg Bennett is suing Bittrex, claiming the exchange failed to act in time to protect against a SIM swap targeting the angel investor.

The DOJ has previously charged another individual, Ohio resident Dawson Bakies, 20, alleging he targeted more than 50 individuals to SIM swap.

According to Thursday’s press release, the FBI and Internal Revenue Service division of Criminal Investigations are investigating the case.

Uphold Opens Crypto Trading to Users With UK Bank Accounts

Trading platform Uphold has added pound sterling support, meaning users can trade cryptocurrencies via payments from U.K. bank accounts.

The new connectivity launched into beta Wednesday and is expected to become publicly available on Jan. 21. Near-instant transfers will soon also be enabled through the U.K.’s Faster Payments Service (FPS) in the coming weeks.

After that, U.K. users will be able to make zero-fee deposits with bank cards, which can settle in seconds using FPS. They can also make deposits with eight supported cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, ether and XRP. Using Uphold’s third-party providers, users can earn interest on fiat currencies and cryptocurrencies stored on the platform.

Founded in 2013 as Bitreserve, the platform originally launched as a straight play to make cryptocurrencies more accessible. The company rebranded to Uphold in 2015 when it expanded its mission to offer financial services in a broader range of assets.

According to Uphold CEO J.P. Thieriot, the platform is designed to “democratize access to financial markets.” Describing it as “one of our most important markets,” he added: “The U.K couldn’t be joining us at a more important time as we’re opening around 7,000 new accounts per day thanks to our expanded line up of services.”

At the height of the ICO boom in 2017, some exchanges reported they were onboarding tens of thousands of new users every day. Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao told Bloomberg at the time that the platform once had 240,000 new registrations in an hour.

Uphold has more than 1.7 million users globally and a cumulative volume of $6 billion. As well as a trading platform, it can also be used to send funds free of charge. Using an automatic exchange facility means users can make transactions with different assets.

In early 2018, Uphold received a $57.5 million investment from Ripple’s chief risk officer, Gregg Kidd, to help fund the creation of a new research and development arm, Uphold Labs.

Uphold, which is already available in 40 countries around the world, currently supports trading in 27 cryptocurrencies, as well as 29 fiat currencies. Six new national currencies, including the Canadian dollar, have also been added as of Wednesday.

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