It seems almost daily that there are new reports of people being swindled out of large sums of money as a result of some new cryptocurrency scams. It seems that these types of scams are more prevalent than any other type of fraud. This is why it was not surprising to see on Thursday that law enforcement officials in Australia reported the arrest of five individuals associated with a cryptocurrency scam, as well as money laundering and fraud.
Officials from the Financial and Cyber Crime Group, State Crime Command arrested and charged three men and two women during a sting operation that began in May and concluded this month. The five were charged following a lengthy cold call and investment fraud investigation that became known as “Operation Quebec Walnut.”
Detectives began to investigate after information supplied to law enforcement officials led them to believe that a criminal syndicate was operating through a number of different businesses that were selling cryptocurrency investments on the Gold Coast from 2017 up through May of this year. Police concluded that as many as 100 Australian citizens had become victims of the scam, losing as much as A$2.7 million (US$1.83 million).
According to law enforcement officials, alleged victims were contacted from members of the Exmount Holdings Group with an investment opportunity. Victims were directed to a website that looked extremely official, and there was even a call center (using 1300 prefix telephone numbers), as well as a sales staff. The whole operation looked completely legitimate.
However, it was not. Generous returns were offered as part of the investment, but soon it was realized that the investment opportunity was nothing more than a cryptocurrency scam.
“When victims attempted to withdraw their capital, they could not. Their money had gone and any attempt they made to contact one of the companies or their staff was unsuccessful,” explained Detective Superintendent Terry Lawrence, of the State Crime Command’s Financial and Cyber Crime Group.
As police began to dig deeper into the company, they soon discovered that the scammers were using several different company names and websites, including “AFG Associates Pty Ltd,” “tradex123,” “The Quid Pro Quo Foundation,” “The Atlas Group,” “exmounttrading,” “atlasfxgroup,” and “amazonqus.”
It is these kinds of activities that lead law enforcement officials to warn citizens about the dangers of these kinds of scams. Detective Superintendent Lawrence issued such a warning, adding “We ask the community to remain resilient against this type of offending. Always be wary of and maintain control of your finances. Ask yourself if you are in control of these transactions, be wary of any unsolicited telephone calls or emails offering investment opportunities and seek independent advice from friends, family or financial advisors.”
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