A $224 million lawsuit has now been brought against AT&T by Michael Terpin alleging "SIM swap" fraud, the result of what happens when someone contacts a carrier with the intention of swapping the data associated with someone else's SIM card to one they control. This isn't an uncommon occurrence and has even been presented as an industry-wide problem by some carriers over the past several months. That's because, as highlighted by this latest allegation, a SIM swap situation can allow for easy access to any of the victim's other accounts, which happen to be authenticated via a phone number. In this case, the fraud was committed against the founder and CEO of the cryptocurrency advisory firm, Transform Group, and senior adviser to cryptocurrency hedge fund, the Alphabit Fund.
Terpin claims, that in addition to having his account with AT&T transferred to an international criminal organization, the swap provided its perpetrators with access to approximately three million cryptocurrency tokens, worth $23.8 million. The remaining $200 million being sought is intended as a punitive action in order to motivate AT&T to address any shortcomings on its part that may have aided the thieves. For example, Terpin states this is not actually the first time he has fallen victim to this sort of scam, alleging "additional protections" AT&T had put in place following an "earlier incident" had failed to stop the later attack - a point the lawsuit likens to negligence on AT&T's part. With the complaint drawing on recent arrests of perpetrators of similar crimes (alleged to have also occurred through AT&T's network) as further evidence the negligence shown by the carrier is not the result of a one-time issue. In a response provided to Reuters, AT&T was quoted saying, “We dispute these allegations and look forward to presenting our case in court.”
Although illegitimate SIM swaps do happen, the most common response by carriers has historically been to reinforce the existing process by which swaps are allowed. Even in high-profile or widely-publicized cases, there isn't much precedence for awarding damages against a service provider. For example, following a recent incident experienced on T-Mobile's network, the carrier simply reached out to customers to encourage the activation of account protective measures against the activity. Therefore, the repercussions associated with this new lawsuit could prove to be far-reaching if a court finds in favor of Terpin.