By the end of 2022, scammers shifted their focus to duping crypto investors who desperately tried to recoup their year-long losses. An international law enforcement operation led by European government agencies joined crypto entrepreneurs and businesses to curb cross-border crypto scams since July 2022, uncovering a criminal network operating through call centers.
Europol and Eurojust, two EU agencies for law enforcement cooperation, joined authorities from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany and Serbia to investigate online investment fraud since June 2022. The investigation identified a criminal network that incurred over $2.1 million in losses — primarily for German investors.
Call centres selling fake crypto taken down in Bulgaria, Serbia & Cyprus.
The criminal organisations lured victims to invest over EUR 2 million in bogus crypto investment websites.
— Europol (@Europol) January 12, 2023
According to Europol, the scammers lured victims — from Germany, Switzerland, Australia and Canada, among others — to invest in bogus crypto investment schemes and websites. This finding eventually led to the creation of an operational task force aimed toward cross-border investigation.
Operating across four call centers in eastern Europe, scammers lured potential victims by offering lucrative profits on small investments, which motivated them to make larger investments. Considering the number of unreported cases, Europol suspects total losses could be hundreds of millions of euros.
In the investigation, 261 individuals — two in Bulgaria, two in Cyprus, three in Germany and 214 in Serbia — were questioned, 22 locations in the EU were searched and 30 individuals were arrested. Hardware wallets, cash, vehicles, electronic equipment and documents were also seized.
While scammers continue to impersonate government authorities and businesses, the crypto community maintains a proactive approach to weaken scammers through proactive warning announcements, hack preventive fixes and educating the general public.
Related: $3.9 billion lost in the cryptocurrency market in 2022: Report
A report from bug bounty and security services platform Immunefi revealed that the crypto industry lost a total of 3.9 billion dollars in 2022.
Out of the lot, 95.6% of the total loss was attributed to hacks, while fraud, scams, and rug pulls comprised the remaining 4.4%. BNB Chain and Ethereum were the most targeted blockchains.
Mitchell Amador, CEO of Immunefi, suggested “proactively identifying and addressing vulnerabilities” to protect the community and rebuild trust among investors.