They used call center fraud to lure victims into investing in fake crypto-schemes.
Europol and Eurojust, together with judicial and law enforcement officials in Germany, Siberia and Cyprus, worked to combat organized criminal gangs involved in online crypto fraud. This operation was supported by Europol in June 2022.
According to reports, cybercriminals were using call centers. The cyber criminals lured their victims to make large investments in .
Europol established an Operational Task Force in order to investigate these criminal gangs. Europol was able to eliminate the crypto-fraud network, which had been targeting innocent people in Germany, Australia and Austria and made millions in Euros. The number of victims remains unclear due to the high volume of financial transactions that were discovered.
Action Day Details
The task force arrested 15 suspects on the Action Day of the operation. One suspect was arrested in Germany and 14 in Serbia. Additionally, 261 people were also questioned. These included 42 suspects in Bulgaria, 241 from Serbia and 3 from Germany. Some are still awaiting trial.
The authorities searched 250 places and 22 workplaces in all five countries. They also checked 5 locations in Bulgaria and 15 in Serbia. The task force searched 4 call centers and 11 homes in Serbia as well as 2 Bulgarian companies and 2 Bulgarian homes. They also checked 2 Cyprus homes.
Three hardware wallets were seized by the team, each containing approximately $1,000,000 worth of cryptocurrency and EUR 50,000 cash. The team also seize three vehicles and data backups. They also seize more than 150 computers.
What was the scam?
Europol’s states that the hackers ran the call centers from Serbia, and they used social media to promote them. They also used the tech infrastructure of Bulgaria to operate. The money was also said to have been laundered in Cyprus.
A lot of investors fell for their scheme through . From there, they were directed to criminally-managed websites. They initially asked for three-digit amounts, but later raised the amount.
The scammers contacted victims via phone, speaking their native languages (e.g. English or German). The crooks lured their victims into large investments, which they then lost. All active call centers were seized by the Task Force.
The investigation into the scam was initiated in 2021 by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Stuttgart, Germany (PPO), and the State Office of Criminal Investigations of Baden-Wurttemberg (SOCI). In November 2022, a joint meeting was held to prepare for Action Day and receive financial and logistical support by the Task Force.
These are details about the various departments involved in the operations on the ground.
Bulgaria: The General Directorate National Police and Investigative Department of Sofia City PPO are under the control of the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office
Cyprus, Crime Combating Department. Office for Executing European Investigation Orders. Letters of Request Limassol/Pafos Branch.
Germany: PPO Stuttgart, State Office of Criminal Investigations Baden-Wurttemberg and Police Headquarters of Aalen-Reutlingen
Serbia: The Special Public Prosecution Office for Combating Tech Crime. Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia. Service for Combating Organized Crime.