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Twitter Scammer Pleads Guilty to $794,000 Celeb Crypto Theft

2 mins
Updated by Geraint Price
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In Brief

  • Joseph James O'Connor pleads guilty to cyber intrusion and SIM-swap fraud.
  • He and accomplices stole $794,000 from a crypto wallet firm in 2020.
  • The scam affected Elon Musk, Michael Bloomberg, and other high profile people.
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A British citizen has pleaded guilty to computer intrusion and stealing cryptocurrencies using SIM-swap fraud.

Joseph James O’Connor and accomplices hacked the Twitter accounts of names like Elon Musk and Michael Bloomberg in 2020 to send a Bitcoin link promising high returns quickly. 

Twitter Scam Through SIM Swap Fraud

The attack differed from other impersonation scams in that they used the actual accounts of high-profile people.

The fraudsters also stole $794,000 in crypto through a SIM-swap fraud affecting three executives of a wallet company.  These intrusions allowed them to drain crypto from two clients’ wallets.

They then laundered the funds through various transactions and converted some to Bitcoin. Some stolen crypto went to a personal exchange account in O’Connor’s name.

O’Connor, aka PlugwalkJoe, also hacked a Snapchat account through a SIM swap and endangered one of his victims through swatting attacks.

Swatting attacks direct law enforcement action against victims through emergency calls implicating the victim in a crime. 

O’Connor faces 77 years in jail after pleading guilty to cybercrime, including the conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, extortive communications, and making threatening communications. 

Last year, hackers misappropriated Bitcoin investor Kevin O’Leary’s account to offer Bitcoin and Ethereum giveaways.

O’Connor’s Twitter Scam Was Unsophisticated, Experts Say

American intelligence originally surmised the hack to be the work of an individual. Alex Stamos of the Stanford Internet Observatory said that a request for Bitcoin donations belied an unsophisticated scam. 

Timeline of Fraud | Source: New York Times
Timeline of Fraud | Source: New York Times

During the hack investigation, the New York Times confirmed the involvement of four individuals by linking their social media accounts with their crypto addresses.

According to the Times, pseudonymous Discord user Kirk allegedly sold Twitter handles for Bitcoin to prove his access to Twitter’s internals.

O’Connor allegedly bought the handle “@6,” saying at the time,

“They can come arrest me. I would laugh at them. I haven’t done anything.”

He will be sentenced on June 23 and must forfeit his stolen crypto. 

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David Thomas
David Thomas, a seasoned electronic engineer with nine years of expertise, has built a distinguished career by combining his passion for writing with an in-depth understanding of...