Alleged 19-Year-Old SIM Swapper Used Stolen Bitcoin to Buy Luxury Cars

Police in California continue their investigation in port out scams by arresting a second suspect.

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Aug 22 2018, 5:53pm

Image: Lia Kantrowitz/Motherboard

Police in California arrested another hacker accused of hijacking phone numbers with the goal of stealing cryptocurrency on August 17.

Xzavyer Narvaez, 19, is accused of seven counts of computer crimes, identity fraud, and grand theft, according to a complaint obtained by Motherboard. Narvaez’s arrest comes approximately a month after that of Joel Ortiz, the first person in the US to ever be accused of hijacking phone numbers—a type of fraud also known as SIM swapping or “port out scam”—to steal Bitcoin. Earlier this month, Florida police arrested a 25-year-old also accused of being part of a group that stole Bitcoin through SIM swap hacks.

It appears that Narvaez spent some of the Bitcoin he stole on sports cars. Through DMV records, the police found that Narvaez purchased a 2018 McLaren paying partly in Bitcoin and partly by trading-in a 2012 Audi R8, which Narvaez purchased with Bitcoin in June 2017. The investigators obtained records from Bitcoin payment provider BitPay, and cryptocurrency exchanges Bittrex. The records revealed that between March 12, and July 12 of this year, Narvaez’s account saw a flow of 157 Bitcoin (now worth around $1 million), according to a court document.

Hundreds of people around the country have become victims of these type of scams. Criminals sometimes target cryptocurrency investors, or people with short, unique Instagram usernames that can then be resold in a secondary gray market for stolen accounts, as a recent Motherboard investigation showed.

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Investigators from the Regional Enforcement Allied Computer Team or REACT, a task force of multiple local California police departments that’s been investigating SIM swapping hacks, got on Narvaez’s trail when they found that a cellphone used by Ortiz at some point logged into Narvaez’s Gmail account, according to a statement of facts submitted by the investigators in court.

According to the document, AT&T provided authorities with the unique identifying numbers—or IMEI—of cell phones used to take over victim’s numbers, the coordinates of cell phone towers which those phones connected to, and Narvaez’s call records. This information revealed that Narvaez’s phone was connected to the same cell phone tower, and at the same time, as one of the phones used to SIM swap victims.

Read more: How To Protect Yourself From SIM Swapping Hacks

Investigators identified three victims targeted by Narveaz after obtaining information from Apple on customer accounts linked to an IMEI number from the phone allegedly used by Narvaez, and identified three victims. One of the victims said he was hacked last year and lost $150,000, according to the investigators.

Last month, multiple sources in the SIM swapping community had told me that an individual that goes by Xzavyer was one of the best SIM swappers out there. The sources said he was on Instagram using the username @gameroom. The account is now gone, but weeks ago, name on the account was “xza,” and it featured pictures of a white 2018 McLaren with the caption “live fast, die young,” according to a screenshot provided by a source.

At the time, I messaged the person who used the account @gameroom, who denied knowing anything about SIM swapping.

A spokesperson from the Santa Clara County Office of the District Attorney, which is investigating the case, declined to comment. Narvaez could not be reached for comment.

Narvaez was released without bail on August 20, while Ortiz is still in jail, according to authorities.

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