- Organised crime group targeting social media users across the globe scams millions of euros in a fake cryptocurrency investment scheme.
- Europol set up an Operational Task Force to support an international investigation leading to several arrests on 11 January 2023.
- 15 arrests made, 261 individuals questioned (some awaiting prosecution) 22 locations searched, 3 cryptocurrency hardware wallets worth ~1 million USD seized, along with cash and other assets.
Europol and Eurojust have supported a coordinated international investigation by agencies from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany and Serbia to shut down a cryptocurrency investment scam. On 11 January 2023 the Operational Task Force moved to arrest 15 suspects believed to be involved in a fraudulent online cryptocurrency investment scam. A large criminal network is thought to be behind the scam and so far more than 260 people have been questioned regarding the scheme – some awaiting prosecution.
The fraudulent cryptocurrency investment scam targeted social media users predominately in Germany but also Switzerland, Australia and Canada. Unwitting investors and future victims received advertisements that boasted of large returns through investment in cryptocurrency. Initial small investments made by victims led to lucrative profits through fake price rises, luring victims to make significantly higher investments. The financial damages to victims is estimated to run into the millions of euros, with German victims alone accounting for losses of over 2 million euros.
The scheme is thought to involve numerous locations and criminal actors across Europe. Thus far the investigation has led to the search of 22 locations including call centres, residences and companies in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Serbia. Beyond the arrests, assets and cash worth over 1 million USD have been seized, along with documents and other evidence. The investigation is ongoing, with suggestions that the number of unreported victims remains significant.