Cryptocurrency Investment Scam Nets €15M; Assets Seized

• Italian and Albanian law enforcement authorities busted a suspected cryptocurrency investment scam that is estimated to have netted 15 million euros (US$16 million).
• Assets worth 3 million euros were seized, along with more than 160 electronic devices, including computers, servers, digital video recorders and a cellphone.
• The perpetrators posed as brokers offering advantageous investments in cryptocurrencies with zero risk, and encouraged victims to make large deposits, in some cases their entire economic capital.

Italian and Albanian law enforcement authorities have recently taken action against a suspected cryptocurrency investment scam estimated to have netted 15 million euros (US$16 million). The joint investigation team seized assets worth 3 million euros, along with more than 160 electronic devices including computers, servers, digital video recorders and a cellphone.

The perpetrators of the scam operated out of a call center in Tirana, Albania. Victims were asked to create an account and transfer an initial sum, which showed an immediate financial gain. They were then contacted by the perpetrators posing as brokers, offering advantageous investments in cryptocurrencies with zero risk. However, it is not clear that any crypto assets were actually purchased.

Victims were then encouraged to make far larger investments, in some cases their entire economic capital. Once the larger deposits were made, the account details were changed, and the victims were locked out.

Crypto investment scams are becoming increasingly popular with criminals, as they target victims seeking to make sizable short-term financial gains despite the market’s decline this year. This is separate from the use of cryptocurrency, with its perceived lack of traceability, to hide the proceeds of crime. In the U.K., crypto tactical advisers have begun to be stationed in police departments specifically to investigate and seize digital assets linked to crime.

Eurojust, the European Union’s cross-border agency for fighting organized crime, issued a statement about the bust, but stated that no further details could be provided as the investigation was still ongoing. It remains to be seen how this case will be settled, and what the consequences will be for the perpetrators of the scam.

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