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Call centre-based crypto scammers taken down in Europe

Europol has assisted a raft of European countries in taking down an extensive crypto scam network.

user icon David Hollingworth
Tue, 17 Jan 2023
Call centre-based crypto scammers taken down in Europe
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Arrests were made in Germany and Serbia, with law enforcement agencies from Germany, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Serbia working alongside experts from Europol and Eurojust.

The scammers operated out of a range of locations, including from dedicated call centres. They lured victims via ads on social networks to apparent investment websites, where “low, three-digit sums” were all that were needed to begin investing. The scammers would then create “fake price hikes”, promising suitably rich returns for investors if they contributed more to the scheme.

Europol estimates that the financial losses to German victims alone is well over €2 million. While the agency does not offer a hard figure for losses to victims from Australia, Switzerland, and Canada, Europol suggests total losses could be well over hundreds of millions of euros.

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“The investigation suggests that the number of unreported cases is likely to be much higher,” Europol said in an announcement. “This would mean that the illegal gains generated by the criminal groups, with at least four call centres in eastern Europe, may be in the hundreds of millions of Euro.”

Europol first joined the operation in June 2022 at the request of German authorities, and has assisted with analytical support, operations coordination, and information exchange. When the arrests were made 11 on January 2023, Europol deployed two experts to Serbia and Bulgaria to crosscheck information with Europol databases and assisted law enforcement agencies with the extraction of data from a range of IT devices, as well as operating a coordination centre.

Fifteen arrests were made in total, out of 261 people questioned. The operations searched 22 sites in Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Serbia, including four call centres and a range of private residences and businesses.

Three hardware wallets containing around US$1 million in crypto were seized in the operation, as well as three cars, €50,000 in cash, and various IT equipment, back-ups, and documents.

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth has been writing about technology for over 20 years, and has worked for a range of print and online titles in his career. He is enjoying getting to grips with cyber security, especially when it lets him talk about Lego.

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