A Los Angeles con artist has been jailed for eight years after using SIM-swapping techniques to hijack Instagram accounts and rob hundreds of victims by duping them into sending him money.
Though individual losses rarely amounted to more than $500, the Department of Justice (DoJ) expressed satisfaction at the tough sentencing imposed on Amir Hossein Golshan, 25, who defrauded hundreds of people between 2019 and 2023 out of around $740,000 in total.
“He showed little remorse for his victims or being caught during his years of crime, believing that he could hide behind the anonymity of online screen names or VPNs and that his victims – who were on the other side of the computer – would never find him,” said prosecutors during a discussion of sentencing.
They added: “Indeed, the defendant continued to commit these crimes, becoming more sophisticated and brazen in his actions, up until the FBI arrested him.”
The sophistication of Golshan’s ruse lay in a combination of many moving parts – first using the SIM-swapping trick to dupe mobile phone providers into reassigning contact numbers to his control. This allowed him to launch social media account takeovers that targeted both primary victims and their friends.
On average, victims lost between $300 and $500, but in one case, Golshan took his game-hunting up a notch, impersonating a friend of an Instagram influencer with more than 100,000 followers in December 2021 to defraud her and others out of thousands of dollars between them via Zelle, PayPal, and other legal online payment platforms.
His ingenuity didn’t end there. Golshan also impersonated Apple Support employees so he could illegally access iCloud accounts and steal digital art non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and cryptocurrency.
In another case cited by the DoJ, Golshan contacted a victim in August 2022, making it look like he was using Apple Support’s legitimate telephone number to heighten the deception. He convinced the victim to part with their personal code, ironically claiming that this was intended to provide them with “an advanced security protocol” to shore up their digital safety.
This got Golshan into the victim’s iCloud account, where he could then change the email address registered to it to one he controlled. After that, he was able to steal an NFT worth $319,000 and $70,000 in cryptocurrency from the same victim.
Golshan entered a guilty plea in July after being taken into federal custody the previous month, which the DoJ says was prompted by his violation of the terms of his pretrial release.
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