Seven years ago, Ahmad Wagaafe Hared – a resident of Tucson, Arizona – orchestrated a SIM-swapping scheme to siphon off $5.2 million in Bitcoin from crypto executives in northern California. This wildest part? Hared was just 18 years old at the time of the theft.
Fast forward to 2023, the US Department of Justice has initiated legal action against the teenage hacker. Last week, a federal judge issued an order, directing Hared to hand over 119.8 Bitcoin that he stole back in 2016, according to a recent media report. In all, the stolen Bitcoin is presently valued at approximately $5.2 million.
The prosecutors also want Hared to return the sports car – a 2017 BMW i8 – he purchased with the ill-gotten gains, along with more than 93 Stellar coins, which are currently worth $11,770.
When Hared was just 18, he began working in cahoots with two accomplices, including Matthew Gene Ditman of Nevada, to steal cryptocurrency. The trio first got hold of the personal contact information of cryptocurrency executives and investors, located in northern California. They, then, contacted customer support representatives of cell phone providers, tricking them into thinking that they were the rightful owners of the phone numbers they were targeting.
Using a technique called SIM-swapping, the young hackers then transferred the targeted phone number over to their own phone. This allowed Hared and his co-conspirators to break into the victims’ private accounts where they stored their cryptocurrencies, – or other private information – and ultimately, fleece them.
Hared and Ditman would often contact their victims after gaining control of their accounts, attempting to extort them further, prosecutors revealed in a 2019 indictment.
Their plot was eventually thwarted in 2019 when the FBI identified and arrested Hared and Ditman. However, the duo have yet to be sentenced.
Prosecutors also shed light on a related case, involving a man named Anthony Francis Faulk, a co-conspirator in a SIM-swapping scheme targeting crypto execs that ran between October 2016 and 2018. Notably, Hared also scammed his victims during the same period.
According to media reports, Faulk reportedly defrauded 10 victims out of more than $3.4 million, and used the ill-gotten gains to purchase a home worth about $1 million, and several high-end cars including a Ferrari and a Mercedes. Last month, a San Francisco federal judge signed off an order, granting the US government permission to seize some of Faulk’s property, including land in Pennsylvania, multiple bank accounts and gold jewelry.
Crypto platforms have faced a number of hacks and scams in recent months. Retired football icon Ronaldinho recently got his name dragged in a purported $61 crypto pyramid scheme. However, the Brazilian football legend has denied any wrongdoing.
The rise of artificial intelligence has fueled a surge in crypto phishing scams. California financial regulator, the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, recently exposed five such entities, who were using AI to run “fraudulent investment schemes.” Meanwhile, hackers are continuing to exploit YouTube to promote crypto scams.