Cryptocurrency scammers are once again involved in online investment fraud. Europol and Eurojust have joined forces with law enforcement authorities in Germany, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Cyprus in an effort to crack down on a criminal network that preyed upon unsuspecting victims through call centers.
Ads posted on social networks promising extraordinary investment opportunities directed investors toward websites run by these criminals. The victims were lured into thinking they are investing in new cryptocurrency opportunities, but everything was an elaborate lie.
The joint operational task has successfully dismantled the operation, but not before it cost victims more than $2 million losses.
The Tip of the Crypto Scam Iceberg
Europol, together with the local authorities, searched several call centers and residences where they found 3 digital wallets with around $1 million worth of cryptocurrency, as well as other valuable items. After questioning 261 individuals and arresting 15 suspects, authorities determined that most victims are from Germany. Investors from Australia, Canada, and Switzerland have also fallen victim, but in lesser numbers.
The scammers fooled mostly German victims to invest in fake crypto opportunities that they set up on their own websites. At first, they convinced the victims to make low investments to convince themselves that the opportunity is legitimate.
The scammers then increased the value of the crypto on their websites and successfully convinced the victims to invest large sums of money for guaranteed profits. The authorities discovered that $2 million were taken from the victims, but that seems to be just the tip of the iceberg. According to Europol’s report:
The investigation suggests that the number of unreported cases is likely to be much higher. This would mean that the illegal gains generated by the criminal groups, with at least four call centers in eastern Europe, may be in the hundreds of millions of euros.
That said, this wasn’t the boiler room crypto scam that the authorities discovered.
Crypto Scams Are on the Rise
In March 2022, another similar crypto scam operation was dismantled by the Latvian and Lithuanian authorities. More than 100 people were found to be involved in an international scam that involved call centers and fake cryptocurrency investments. The scammers convinced their victims to transfer a total of more than $3 million per month before the operation was shut down.
Crypto scams are more frequent because criminal groups put a lot of effort into making fake investment opportunities seem real. Even large companies like Apple and Google aren’t safe since scammers uploaded crypto scam apps to their respective Play Stores to trick users into giving away their money and data.
Be Careful with Your Crypto Investments
If an investment opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers try to convince you otherwise by getting you to invest small sums of money at first. Then they tell you how much your portfolio has grown since you made the initial investment and entice you to transfer bigger sums of money to secure a bigger win.
Research all crypto trading websites, apps, or wallets before you transfer your money anywhere. Even popular crypto exchanges like FTX shouldn’t be blindly trusted. Stick to official sources of information, coins that have proven their mettle over the years, and non-custodial wallets. Not your keys, not your crypto, as they say.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to encrypt your connection with a VPN to make sure nobody has access to your financial information.