TWO Scots have been arrested over their alleged involvement in a plot to hack US celebrities’ phones.

The pair – a 26-year-old man from Dumfries, and a man, 23, from Glasgow – were nicked following a National Crime Agency probe.

The NCA has made eight arrests over an alleged 'sim swapping' crime ring

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The NCA has made eight arrests over an alleged ‘sim swapping’ crime ringCredit: Alamy

In total, eight men aged between 18 and 26, were arrested across the UK yesterday.

Charges include Computer Misuse Act offences and money laundering.

The alleged crime ring has been accused of gaining illegal access to the phones of high-profile celebs including influencers, sports stars, musicians, and their families by “sim swapping”.


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It is claimed they gained control of stars’ apps or accounts by changing the passwords after accessing their phone numbers, reports Birmingham Live.

The NCA claim this had allowed them to allegedly swipe money, bitcoin and personal information – and access their social media accounts.

Potential victims were notified by the NCA – working with agents from the US Secret Service, Homeland Security Investigations, the FBI and the Santa Clara California District Attorney’s Office – when they had been targeted.

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The victim’s identities cannot be revealed.

Paul Creffield, head of operations in the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, said: “Sim swapping requires significant organisation to achieve the desired outcome.

“This network allegedly targeted a large number of victims in the US, such as famous sports stars and musicians.

What is sim swapping?

According to Which?, sim swapping is:

Fraudsters start by gathering data about you via social engineering (sending fake emails, texts, phone calls to trick you into divulging personal information) or by paying for stolen data on underground online forums.

Social media accounts can also prove fruitful for learning answers to common security questions, such as birthdays, names of pets and favourite sports teams.

Armed with enough information to pose as you, the scammer will contact the customer services department of your network provider – over the phone, via webchat or even in store – and ask for your number to be switched to a Sim card in their possession.

The fraudster’s aim is to take control of your number, by convincing your network to either: swap your number to a new Sim card on the same network, perhaps by claiming that ‘their’ phone is lost, or, move your number to another network by requesting the Porting Authorisation Code (PAC).

“In this case, those arrested face prosecution for offences under the Computer Misuse Act, fraud, and money laundering as well as extradition to the US.

“Cyber criminality is not restricted by borders and our efforts to tackle it reflect that.

“This investigation is the result of successful collaboration with international partners in the US and Europol, as well as our law enforcement colleagues here in the UK.”

Sim swapping arrests

Scotland (both arrested by Police Scotland):

  • 26-year-old man in Dumfries on suspicion of Computer Misuse Act offences
  • 23-year-old man in Glasgow in relation to an extradition request

Arrests in England:

  • 18-year-old man in Birmingham arrested by the National Crime Agency on suspicion of Computer Misuse Act offences
  • 19-year-old man in Coventry arrested by the National Crime Agency on suspicion of Computer Misuse Act offences
  • 18-year-old man in London arrested by the National Crime Agency on suspicion of Computer Misuse Act offences
  • 18-year-old man in London arrested by the National Crime Agency on suspicion of Computer Misuse Act offences
  • 23-year-old man in Bristol arrested by the National Crime Agency on suspicion of money laundering
  • 20-year-old man in Nottingham arrested by Nottinghamshire Police on suspicion of money laundering

Assistant Director Michael D’Ambrosio, U.S. Secret Service Office of Investigations, said yesterday: “The multi-jurisdictional arrests announced today illustrate the importance of building strong partnerships.

“The Secret Service would like to thank our domestic and international law enforcement partners for their steadfast commitment and cooperation in this case.

“The Secret Service and our law enforcement partners remain ready to combat transnational crimes and to hold offenders accountable.”

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