A Los Angeles man was charged on Feb. 23 in a six-count federal grand jury indictment alleging he defrauded female social media influencers by engaging in “SIM swapping” to hijack their Instagram accounts and obtain money from them.
Amir Hossein Golshan, 24, is charged with two counts of wire fraud, one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information, one count of accessing a computer to defraud and obtain value, one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of threatening to damage a protected computer. The defendant was arrested on Feb. 2.
A subscriber identity module, or “SIM,” is a small portable memory chip card that stores a cellphone user’s information and is used to authenticate cellphone subscribers.
“SIM swapping” is the process of fraudulently inducing a carrier to reassign a cellphone number from a legitimate subscriber or user’s SIM card to a SIM card controlled by another individual, without the legitimate subscriber or user’s authorization.
According to the indictment and court documents, from April 2019 to February 2023, Golshan schemed to defraud female social media influencers, models and their friends on social media. Golshan allegedly targeted social media influencers and caused the victims’ cell phone numbers to be SIM swapped. He allegedly did this by deceiving the victims’ phone carriers into transporting the victims’ cellphone number to a cell phone he controlled. Golshan then reset the password and codes for the victims’ social media accounts and sent to a device he controlled, the indictment alleges.
Golshan allegedly logged into the victims’ social media accounts, impersonated them to their online friends and requested that they send him money. Other times, Golshan allegedly extorted the victims for money and sexually explicit chats to return the victims’ social media accounts, authorities said.
In December 2021, a Los Angeles-based model and social media influencer identified in court documents as “Victim 1” received a direct message on Instagram from the account owned by one of her friends stating, “Can you do me a favor? What’s your number?” Victim 1 provided her phone number to the person whom she believed was her friend.
Four hours later, the victim noticed that her phone was no longer connecting to her cellphone network. She received an email from her cellphone carrier stating that her account had been changed from her personal iPhone to a different iPhone that she did not recognize.
Authorities said it took the victim approximately two hours to regain control of her cellphone and she was unable to log into her Instagram account for one day because her password had been changed. During that time, Golshan allegedly hacked into the victim’s Instagram account, posed as the victim and requested cellphone numbers and money from the victim’s friends, collecting approximately $15,000.
In another incident, Golshan allegedly SIM swapped another victim and allegedly took control of her Instagram account, changed its password and demanded $5,000. Golshan allegedly later told the victim that he would return her Instagram account to her if she initiated a video call and stripped for him.
Golshan faces 20 years in federal prison for each wire fraud count, up to five years in federal prison for each computer hacking-related count and a mandatory two-year prison sentence for the aggravated identity theft count.
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