NEWARK — A Marlton man is accused of helping a Confederate gain access to cell phones used by customers at a South Jersey telecommunications store.
Jonathan Katz, 40, allegedly used his credentials as a store manager to remove “subscriber identity module” (SIM) numbers from customers’ phones, according to the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office .
He then placed the SIM cards in mobile devices controlled by someone who paid him in Bitcoin, the federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
The practice allowed the unnamed individual to control customers’ phones and access their electronic accounts, according to the statement.
The technique “is often used to defeat accounts with two-factor authentication,” including email, social media and financial accounts, he noted.
A criminal complaint alleges Katz targeted five victims, identified only as residents of New Jersey, California, Tennessee and Wyoming.
The bitcoin payments, equal to $1,000 each, were traced to Katz’s cryptocurrency account, the U.S. attorney’s office alleged.
According to the complaint, a phone’s SIM card “is encoded on a small removable chip or directly embedded in a phone.” The number is used by a mobile operator to confirm a customer’s subscription.
The exchange linked the victim’s phone number to a SIM card installed on another device, the complaint continues.
“Because victims’ physical cell phones are no longer linked to their cell phone accounts, victims do not receive account alerts or other indications that their online accounts have been compromised or accessed from unknown devices,” the report said.
Authorities have not identified either the store that Katz employed or the person who allegedly paid him.
Katz is accused of obtaining unauthorized access to a protected computer.
The accusation is only an allegation. Katz, who is free on an unsecured bond of $100,000, was not convicted in the case.
Jim Walsh covers public safety, economic development and other topics for the Courier-Post, the Burlington County Times and the Daily Journal.
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This article originally appeared on Cherry Hill Courier-Post: Jonathan Katz accused of swapping SIM numbers between cellphones