Europol and Eurojust announced today the arrest of five people suspected of being part of a large network of online investment fraud with at least 33,000 victims who lost around 89 million euros (around 98 million of dollars).
The coordinated action took place over two days of action in March and involved raiding 15 sites (including five illegal call centres) in Bulgaria, Romania and Israel.
The fraudulent operation lured investors through web and social media banner ads, tricking their targets into committing small sums of up to €250 as initial investments by promising big profits.
“The victims were then contacted by so-called personal financial advisers, who promised even higher profits on larger investments. These larger investments were then lost and the illegal profits were paid into the bank accounts of the perpetrators,” Europol said. said.
“The fraud scheme was allegedly executed between 2019 and 2021, with the suspects of the operations in 2021 or their associates having recently set up call centers in Bulgaria and Romania.”
The victims were also tricked into following the advice of the scammers by the very low interest rates throughout the period they were targeted, which made the big profits promised much more attractive.
New action against the fraudulent online investment platform: five arrests of high-value targets.
33,000 victims lost 89 million euros due to the scam. The actions were carried out by the authorities, with Europol & @Eurojust support.
— Europol (@Europol) April 13, 2023
Last month’s arrests followed and were made possible by the evidence and information collected over the course of Coordinated actions 2021 in Bulgaria, Cyprus and Ukraine which targeted the same fraudulent online trading platform for financial services with binary options.
“The approximately 100 employees of the two call centers, located in Sofia, contacted ‘clients’ and advertised bogus financial services in the field of binary options under the guise of financial advisors,” Europol said in a press release. from October 2021.
“To undertake the scam, call center employees had scripts containing predefined conversations and key messages to convince customers to release more funds.”
However, as a follow-up survey found, the majority of call center workers were unaware of their employer’s involvement in a fraudulent scheme.
Today’s announcement comes after Ukrainian cyberpolice and Europol identified and arrested five key members of another international investment fraud ring behind losses estimated at more than 200 million euros (about $221 million) per year.
The fraudsters operated from call centers and offices in several European countries, including Ukraine, Germany, Spain, Latvia, Finland and Albania.
They tricked potential investors into making bogus investments through a vast network of websites posing as legitimate portals for investing in cryptocurrency, stocks, bonds, futures, and options.
These fake investment websites falsely promised to generate substantial profits for investors, persuading victims to invest more and fall into the trap of scammers.