Today, the US Department of Justice seized six virtual currency accounts containing over $112 million in funds stolen from cryptocurrency investment schemes.
Judges for the Central District of California, the District of Arizona and the District of Idaho cleared today’s action. The DOJ says the next step is to return the stolen cryptocurrency to the victims.
The criminals behind these cryptocurrency fraud scams (also known as pig butcher scams or cryptocurrency trust scams) approach their victims through various dating platforms, messaging apps, or social media platforms, build trust and present them with investment schemes that ultimately allow them to empty the targets’ crypto wallets.
They do this by funneling all the funds victims provide to cryptocurrency accounts under the control of the scammers instead of investing them as promised.
“These particularly vicious frauds – where scammers carefully cultivate relationships with their victims over time – have devastated families and cost individuals their life savings,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the DOJ Criminal Division.
“Now that we have seized this virtual currency, we will seek to quickly return it to the victims.”
The FBI revealed in its 2022 Internet Crime Report that Americans lost more than $3 billion to investment fraud last year.
“In 2022, investment scam losses were the most (common or dollar) scheme reported to IC3. Investment fraud complaints rose from $1.45 billion in 2021 to $3.31 billion in 2022, or 127%,” the FBI said.
“In these complaints, cryptocurrency investment fraud increased from $907 million in 2021 to $2.57 billion in 2022, an increase of 183 percent.”
“Pig butchering” warnings
The FBI also warned in a public service announcement released last month against a spike in ‘pig butcher’ crypto investment schemes which resulted in more than $2 billion in cryptocurrency losses in 2022, according to US victim reports.
These scams have become increasingly sophisticated and now also use psychological manipulation to entice more victims to part with their money by encouraging them to invest more and asking them to pay fees or taxes when they attempt to withdraw. their money.
This wasn’t the first warning about “pig cutting” scams issued by the FBI. In October, law enforcement also warned against an increase in scams stealing ever increasing amounts of cryptocurrency from unsuspecting investors.
Previous FBI alerts have warned of scammers using fraudulent cryptocurrency investment apps And fake rewards in so-called “play-to-earn” games that help scammers steal millions from cryptocurrency investors.
“Financial fraud schemes such as these demonstrate the tremendous lengths criminals will go to to defraud innocent victims of their money. We continue to see these schemes evolve and provide new opportunities for criminals to exploit,” the Deputy Director added. Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigations Division. Today.
“Today’s announcement should serve as a reminder of the FBI’s unwavering commitment, alongside our federal and international law enforcement partners, to investigating and prosecuting criminal actors who seek to defraud the American public. There is no place beyond the reach of the FBI.”