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Teen Charged Over $50m SIM-Swapping Scam on Blockchain Experts

A teenager from Montreal is facing four criminal charges in connection with a $50m SIM-swapping scam that targeted two renowned Canadian Blockchain experts. 

Eighteen-year-old hacker Samy Bensaci is accused of being part of a crime ring that stole millions of dollars in crypto-currency by gaining unauthorized access to the cell phones of crypto-currency holders in America and Canada. 

Spokesperson for the Canadian police force, the Sûreté du Québec, Lieutenant Hugo Fournier, said the elaborate SIM-swapping cyber-fraud was responsible for the theft of "$50 million from our neighbors to the south and $300,000 in Canada."

Police say the crypto-currency thefts, which netted dozens of victims, were perpetrated by the gang in the spring of 2018. 

Among the alleged victims are renowned Toronto businessman, author, and head of the Blockchain Research Institute Don Tapscott and his son Alex, a globally recognized investor, advisor, and speaker on Blockchain technology and crypto-currencies. Together, father and son co-authored Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World.

Bensaci was arrested in Victoria, British Colombia, in November and charged with fraudulently obtaining computer service, committing fraud over $5,000, identity fraud, and illegally accessing computer data. In December, the teen was released on $200,000 bail and ordered to live with his parents in northeast Montreal until his next court hearing.

According to La Presse, neighbors described Bensaci as a discreet young man who spends a lot of time on his computer.

While staying at his parents' residence, Bensaci is prohibited from accessing "any computer, tablet, mobile phone, game console, including PS3, PS4, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, or any other device capable of accessing the Internet," and banned from possessing or exchanging any form of crypto-currency. 

Many of the individuals allegedly targeted by the gang had attended the Consensus crypto-currency fair, held annually in New York.

"We suspect that hackers spot targets during such events," said American SIM-swapping victim Rob Ross. Ross, who was robbed of $1m in crypto-currency in two separate attacks by 21-year-old hacker Nicholas Truglia, now manages the StopSIMCrime.org website.

Ontario Provincial Police sent out an alert regarding the SIM-swap scam in November, along with a warning that fraudsters sometimes impersonate a target and falsely claim that their phone has been lost or stolen.

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