Business

Steve Kaaru

Crypto laundering scheme exposed in Australia, resident faces charges

A 21-year-old Australian woman was arraigned in court Tuesday as part of an investigation into a major fraud ring that involved cryptocurrency money laundering. The Melbourne resident is alleged to be part of a gang that has used identity theft to steal millions of dollars from its victims through large-scale online fraud.

According to a statement by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), government agencies have been investigating the case for over the past year. The crime syndicate allegedly used stolen information purchased from dark web marketplaces, together with fake emails and single-use telephone SIM cards to conduct an identity takeover.

Having taken over a new identity, the gang would then open bank accounts with various banks. According to the statement, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) has discovered over 70 fake accounts opened by the gang.

With the new identities and bank accounts, the members of the gang would then steal money from the superannuation accounts of the victims. These are compulsory accounts in Australia which place a minimum percentage of one’s income into a retirement savings plan.

The gang also targeted the victims’ share trading accounts in listed companies.

The ASIC and the AFP are still investigating the extent of the crime, although the two agencies estimate it to be worth millions of dollars. The superannuation companies and other market participants are working with the agencies to unearth the extent of the crime.

The gang is alleged to have laundered the stolen funds through an overseas contact who would purchase untraceable assets such as jewelry. The money was then transferred back to Australia through cryptocurrencies, the statement revealed.

The ASIC deputy chair Daniel Crennan believes that the acts highlighted the growing danger of a digitized economy, and how criminals were shifting their tactics to leverage new technology such as identity theft and cryptocurrencies to perpetuate their crimes.

He commented, “Cybersecurity threats such as data breaches and financial system attacks are a major concern for ASIC and we will continue to pursue not only cyber-related market and superannuation offending but also the need for institutions to maintain their obligations to ensure they have adequate cyber resilience.”

Earlier this year, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority revealed that investors in the country lost over $254 million in 2018 to investment scams, with crypto-related scams being among the most common.

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