Following a multi-border probe that began in June 2022, multiple call centers in Europe operated by criminal organizations involved in investment fraud online were shut down.
Bulgarian, German, Serbian and Cyprus law enforcement officials discovered that these call center operators tricked victims into investing in large sums of fake cryptocurrency schemes. Also known as “Pig Butchering” cryptocurrency scams,
that the suspects had used social media advertisements to lure victims to sites operated by criminals. These websites offered speculative investment opportunities in cryptocurrency.
The victims, mostly from Germany, first invested low amounts in three-digit numbers. The fake price increases that result in supposedly profitable profits for investors persuade them to transfer higher amounts.
According to investigators, German victims lost over two million Euros. However, victims in other countries (e.g. Australia, Canada, Switzerland) fell prey to the same crooks.
This is only the cases where victims reported losing money. Investigators suspect that there are many more unreported cases.
Europol stated that this would indicate that illegal gains made by criminal organizations, which have at least four call centers in Eastern Europe, could be in the hundreds or millions of euros.
Europol reported that 15 German and Serbian suspects were arrested by law enforcement on January 11. They had searched 22 locations in Bulgaria and Cyprus and interrogated 261 people (some are currently being prosecuted).
The police also confiscated electronic equipment, data and documents found in the search locations. They also confiscated three hardware wallets that contained approximately $1 million worth of cryptocurrencies and about EUR50,000 cash.
Europol, following the arrests of 108 people in Latvia and Lithuania in March 2022 announced that another was being dismantled.
An organized crime organization behind the shut down call centers coordinated 200 “traders”, who called targets in English and Russian and Polish to offer fake investments in crypto, commodities and foreign currencies. They scammed their victims out for at least EUR3,000,000 per month.
Crypto investment scams cost victims billions
In June 2022, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission reported that over 46,000 Americans in cryptocurrency scams from January 2021 to March 2022.
It is a huge increase in comparison to 2021 when that approximately $80 million was lost due to crypto investment scams. This information was based on approximately 71,000 reports.
The FBI in October about “Pig Butchering” investment schemes, where criminals take ever more cryptocurrency. This was done to increase awareness of the scams that are increasingly targeting cryptocurrency investors.
These are red flags from the FBI’s ‘Pig Butchering’ scams.
- A long lost contact, or stranger contacts you via social media.
- Although the URL for the investment platform is not the same as the website of popular cryptocurrency exchanges/markets, it’s very similar (typosquatting).
- When you launch the investment app on Windows, it will warn that it is “untrusted”. Your anti-virus may also mark it as potentially hazardous.
- This investment opportunity seems too good to be real.