A Montreal teen faces four criminal charges after an international team of hackers unsuccessfully targeted a pair of Toronto cybersecurity experts in a $50-million cryptocurrency scam.
“We can confirm that last year a hacker attempted steal crypto assets from our company and its employees,” Don Tapscott said in an email. “That attempt was unsuccessful. We cooperated with the police (and) have been impressed with their determination to bring those responsible to justice.”
A Sûreté du Québec police spokesperson said the case involves dozens of victims and investigators in Canada and the U.S. regarding a “SIM swapping” scheme.
While Don Tapscott and his son Alex said they fended off the attack, Lt. Hugo Fournier of the SQ in Montreal said thieves netted $50-million in the U.S. and another $300,000 in Canada.
Fournier said the SQ worked with Toronto police on the investigation, in which a Montreal teen was charged with four fraud-related crimes in the GTA.
Toronto police declined to comment on the case.
SIM swapping involves tricking a target’s mobile carrier into transferring a wireless service over to a device in the criminal’s control. Fraudsters use it to gain access to a target’s email, social media and financial accounts.
Cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, are decentralized, internet-based currencies which are not controlled by any central authority.
Most cryptocurrencies are based on a system called blockchain, which tallies and verifies transactions in an ever-growing online record.
The father-son team of Don and Alex Tapscott are the co-authors of “Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World.”
Don Tapscott said via email that businesses and individuals need to be vigilant with their cybersecurity.
“This kind of criminal activity is far more prevalent than most companies and citizens are aware, and everyone should take heed to protect themselves as we have,” Don Tapscott said.
The Ontario Provincial Police sent out an alert regarding the SIM swap scam in November, warning that fraudsters sometimes impersonate a target and lie that their phone has been lost or stolen.
Members of the public should keep personal information personal, the OPP statement continues, adding that this includes not publishing your date of birth on social media.
Members of the public also shouldn’t answer phishing emails or text messages looking for you to confirm your password or update your account information, the OPP statement says.
Another tip from the OPP is that you should contact your service provider immediately if you lose mobile service on your device.
Samy Bensaci, 19, of Montreal, has been charged with four crimes in the Toronto area: fraudulently obtain computer service; fraud over $5,000; mischief/ deny access to computer data and personate with intent.
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He was released on bail in December, on a $200,000 surety.
He has been placed under house arrest in Montreal and barred from using any online devices.
He is scheduled to return to court on Jan. 31.