The claim against AT&T Mobility as regards a SIM swapping scandal will move forward, according to an order from a United States federal court. On Monday, an official press release confirmed that Judge Otis Wright II, a federal court judge in Los Angeles, has denied AT&T Mobility’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which was brought up against it by crypto enthusiast and investor Michael Terpin.
Terpin initially sued AT&T Mobility in August 2018, blaming the firm for the loss of nearly $25 million from his cryptocurrency holdings in a SIM swapping scandal.
SIM swapping is a form of fraud where scammers pretend to be the owners of specific SIM cards and convince mobile service providers to share their victims’ confidential information. Armed with the information, the scammers can access their victims’ accounts at various services, including cryptocurrency exchanges, Emails, financial service providers, and much more.
In his original suit filing, Terpin claimed that his account with AT&T had been hacked twice in the space of seven months, adding that the service provider hadn’t done much to beef up their security and protect their customers from instances such as his.
In part, the suit read, “Most troubling, AT&T has not improved its protections even though it knows from numerous incidents that some of its employees actively cooperate with hackers in SIM swap frauds by giving hackers direct access to customer information and by overriding AT&T’s security procedures.”
The suit went on to list his demands, which included $23.8 million in compensatory damages and a further $200 million in punitive damages. AT&T had tried to dismiss the case because it wasn’t ready for litigation. However, Judge Wright seemed to think otherwise.
AT&T has their customers sign agreements in which they relinquish the right to hold the company financially liable for any wrongful acts, but Terpin was looking to tag the deal itself as illegal. In his press release, the judge seemed to agree, asserting that Terpin’s claim showed sufficiently that the wireless customer agreement from AT&T was “unconscionable, void against public policy, and unenforceable in its entirety.”
He added, “Specifically, he objects to the exculpatory provision that exempts AT&T from liability from its own negligence, acts or omissions of a third party, or damages or injury caused by the use of the device.”
However, while the judge did rule in favor of the investor, he also called into question his claim that AT&T was complicit in the SIM swapping operation. In the filing, the judge claimed that Terpin left out information such as how the hackers accessed his accounts, whether the stolen funds were sold and the money was transferred, or whether the assets were transferred to a more secure cold wallet.
“At this stage, the Court is left to speculate how having access to Mr. Terpin’s phone number resulted in the theft of cryptocurrency,” he summarized.
The theft case itself has been pretty much wrapped up. The thief was found out to be Nicholas Truliga, a 21-year-old Manhattan resident popularly known as the
“Bitcoin Bandit.” Terpin sued Truliga concerning the case early this year, and the latter was ordered by a California Superior Court in May to pay $75.8 million in compensatory and punitive damages to the crypto stock trading expert.