SIM swapper charged in cryptocurrency theft scheme

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

A University of California San Diego student named Richard Yuan Li was indicted on August 26th for a SIM swapping scheme that involved stealing phone numbers and accounts and extorting at least 40 people for cryptocurrency and other payments, according to a new release the US Department of Justice shared on Monday.

According to the indictment (PDF), Li convinced Apple customer service in 2018 to send him a replacement iPhone 8 for one he claimed was lost in the mail. Li and others then convinced carriers to port victims’ phone numbers to the iPhone 8 to take control of their accounts — and in some cases, drained their crypto wallets directly.

“Li and his co-conspirators…

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