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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 27 February 2021

UK police arrest gang for hacking US celebrities' phones and stealing money

Eight people arrested face extradition to US

A person using a computer. Getty Images
A person using a computer. Getty Images

Eight men have been arrested in Britain and could face extradition to the US after allegedly hacking the mobile phones of US celebrities to steal money and personal information, UK police said on Tuesday.

The men were arrested in England and Scotland after a joint investigation by law enforcement on both sides of the Atlantic into "Sim swapping attacks" last year, Britain's National Crime Agency said.

The victims included well-known social media influencers, sports stars and musicians, the agency said.

Those held face prosecution for computer crimes, fraud and money-laundering, and possible extradition to the US, said Paul Creffield, head of operations in the NCA's National Cyber Crime Unit.

"As well as causing a lot of distress and disruption, we know they stole large sums from their victims, from either their bank accounts or Bitcoin wallets," Mr Creffield said.

Sim-swapping is where cyber criminals take over a victim's number by deactivating their phone's Sim card and reassigning the number to their own device.

Corrupt employees at the mobile company can be complicit but often the phone's owner has unwittingly downloaded virus-ridden files on a text message.

"The Secret Service and our law-enforcement partners remain ready to combat transnational crimes and to hold offenders accountable," said Michael D'Ambrosio, assistant director of the US Secret Service Office of Investigations.

Updated: February 10, 2021 02:23 AM

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