Several call centers throughout Europe that were being used to conduct crypto fraud and other illicit scams have been shut down by law enforcement agencies. Raids began in June of last year and have continued up until now.
Call Centers Were Engaged in Crypto Fraud
Police agencies throughout the regions of Cyprus, Bulgaria, Germany, and Serbia have discovered various call centers being used to trick investors into placing their money into various crypto fraud schemes, often referred to as “pig butchering” schemes. Europol announced in a recent statement:
The suspects used advertisements on social networks to lure victims to websites covertly operated by the criminals, which offered seemingly exceptional investment opportunities in cryptocurrencies. The victims, mainly from Germany, would first invest low, three-digit sums. Fake price hikes leading to supposedly lucrative profits for investors then persuaded them to make transfers of higher amounts.
It’s estimated that victims in Germany alone have likely lost more than two million euros to the fraud at the time of writing. There are also several other victims in other countries – such as Switzerland, Australia, and Canada – who’s loss figures have yet to be calculated.
This is because only a few of the victims have filed reports after losing their money to the scams. From there, the police agencies conducting investigations into the matters were able to locate additional victims and call centers based on the information they were given in those initial complaints. Europol continued its statement with:
This would mean that the illegal gains generated by the criminal groups, with at least four call centers in eastern Europe, may be in the hundreds of millions of euros.
As many as 15 individuals hailing from Germany and Serbia have been arrested at the time of writing, while 22 separate locations throughout Bulgaria and Cyprus were searched. An additional 261 individuals have been interviewed or questioned by law enforcement, and some of these individuals are now awaiting potential prosecution.
Aside from the arrests, police confiscated several materials including electronics, data, and documents pertaining to the scams. All were found in the searched locations. Lastly, three separate hardware wallets containing more than $1 million in crypto units were discovered along with $50,000 in cash.
This Has Been Rather Prominent Over the Past Year
Pig butchering schemes first came to prominence in the latter half of 2022, with states like Florida first reporting that residents were falling victim to these kinds of schemes. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) later gave traders information about what to keep their eyes out for if they wanted to avoid falling victim to said scams.
For example, being contacted by strangers or long-ago friends on social media was a huge red flag. The FBI also said that if the investment opportunity sounded too good to be true, it probably was.