TORRANCE, Calif. - Torrance resident Seth Shapiro has filed a federal lawsuit against AT&T, alleging that the wireless provider’s employees helped hackers pull off a ‘SIM Swap’ hack that robbed him of $1.8 million, and he says chat logs from the arrested hackers prove it.
“AT&T’s negligence, criminal negligence, I would say, is almost unfathomable,” Shapiro said. “It essentially destroyed our financial future, our entire life savings was stolen.”
In a months-long investigation, FOX 11 previously tracked down an confronted a Verizon employee in Murietta accused of taking bribes to help SIM swappers. That report can be seen here.
A SIM swap is when a scammer gets a hold of the phone number and personal information of a victim then calls the victim’s wireless carrier, impersonates them, and requests that the phone number be transferred to a new SIM card they have in their possession.
If successful, the con artist has effectively taken over the phone number, and they can take advantage of the text-based dual authentication checks that protect our sensitive accounts. They can change passwords, lock the victim out of their own lives, and even empty out their financial accounts.
“I was SIM swapped four times, the two biggest were in one day,” Shapiro said. “I’m in a hotel room in New York, my phone goes dead, I immediately suspect that someone has taken over my SIM cause I know somebody this happened to, so I immediately take somebody else’s phone, call AT&T, and I say you’ve given away my number, turn it off!”
Shapiro says he then ran to an AT&T store, where employees suggested he buy a new phone to move his phone number over to.
“I said I want your assurance that you’re not gonna allow the number to be swapped out because this is literally financial life or death for my family, and they said yeah absolutely, we’re monitoring it,” Shapiro said. “So we turned the number on, I’m standing in the AT&T store, and within two minutes, it went dead again, and that’s when they stole our life savings.”
Shapiro had been SIM swapped again, and within minutes, the hackers had stolen $1.8 million in cryptocurrency from him.
One of those hackers was Joel Ortiz, a Boston man who was arrested at LAX and convicted in the SIM swap hacks of 40 people resulting in the theft of $5 million. He was sentenced to 10 years and is now in San Quentin prison.
According to Shapiro’s lawsuit against AT&T, two company employees were also involved in his hack.
According to the lawsuit, not only did the AT&T employees access his account and authorize changes without his consent, the employees actively profited by knowingly giving his phone number to hackers for the purpose of robbing him.
“The federal government, fortunately, found chat logs of these guys talking about exactly what they were doing to me at the time,” Shapiro said.
FOX 11 has obtained those Discord chat logs.
In them, the hackers discuss resetting Shapiro’s email, finding cryptocurrency coins in his accounts, and excitedly discuss how much money they’re worth, and how much it will be split between them.
It also shows them discussing the moment Shapiro was trying to regain control of his number at the AT&T store, with one hacker saying he will have his “guy” put a stop to it, and that “My AT&T guy is a supervisor, he ain’t ever getting fired.”
“Inside job, classic inside job by AT&T against their own customers,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro’s lawsuit identifies those AT&T employees as Robert Jack and Jarrat White, who worked at AT&T stores in Arizona in 2018.
They’ve both been arrested and charged with wire fraud for their roles in SIM swap hacks.
According to their indictments, White is suspected of being involved in 29 unauthorized SIM swaps that resulted in losses of more than $2 million, and Jack is accused of being involved in 12 unauthorized SIM swaps.
“By bribing the employees at AT&T, they’re able to effectively gain control of your life,” Shapiro said. “My wife went back to work, we have two kids, their college money is gone, we had sold our house, we can’t buy another house, we’re just kinda getting through month to month and hoping there’s some justice at the other end of it.”
When FOX 11 reached out to AT&T for comment on the SIM swap lawsuits against them, the company responded “This is an industry problem,” and referred us to the CTIA for more information.