Cross-border crypto scammers hit list of EU agencies

By the end of 2022, scammers shifted their focus to duping cryptocurrency investors desperate to recoup a year’s worth of losses. An international police operation led by European government agencies has teamed up with entrepreneurs and crypto firms to curb cross-border crypto scams since July 2022, uncovering a criminal network operating through call centers.

Europol and Eurojust, two EU law enforcement cooperation agencies, have joined authorities in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany and Serbia to investigate online investment fraud since June 2022. The investigation identified a criminal network which suffered losses of more than $2.1 million (over €2 million) — mostly to German investors.

According to Europol, the scammers in question have been luring victims – from Germany, Switzerland, Australia and Canada, among others – into investing in bogus cryptocurrency investment schemes and websites. This discovery eventually led to the creation of an operational task force aimed at cross-border investigations.

Operating out of four call centers in Eastern Europe, the scammers lured potential victims by offering lucrative profits on small investments, which motivated them to make bigger investments. Considering the number of unreported cases, Europol suspects that the total losses could be in the hundreds of millions of euros.

During the investigation, 261 people were questioned – two in Bulgaria, two in Cyprus, three in Germany and 214 in Serbia – 22 locations in the EU were searched and 30 were arrested. Hardware wallets, cash, vehicles, electronic equipment and documents were also seized.

As scammers continue to impersonate government authorities and businesses, the crypto community maintains a proactive approach to weaken scammers through proactive warning announcements, preventative hacking solutions, and educating the general public.

Related: $3.9 billion lost in cryptocurrency market in 2022: report

A report on bug bounty and security services platform Immunefi revealed that the cryptocurrency industry lost a total of $3.9 billion in 2022.

Out of the lot, 95.6% of the total loss was attributed to hacks, with fraud, scams, and shootings on the mat making up the remaining 4.4%. BNB and Ethereum have been the most targeted blockchains.

Mitchell Amador, CEO of Immunefi, suggested “proactively identifying and addressing vulnerabilities” to protect the community and rebuild trust among investors.