Law enforcement agencies have uncovered a digital currency criminal syndicate targeting Australian consumers, The Australian reported.
A combined operation carried out by Serbian, Bulgarian, German, and Cypriot authorities revealed the nature of the scheme. The scam operation involved Israelis running call centers from multiple locations across Europe.
Dramatic police raids in Belgrade, Bulgaria and Cyprus, following investigations in Germany, have uncovered evidence Australia is in the top tier of countries being targeted: https://t.co/zWv7I3N5Kg pic.twitter.com/k98CPDxwz7
— The Australian (@australian) February 23, 2023
The international joint task force raided four office complexes and 11 residential buildings in Europe, leading to the arrest of 15 suspects. A total of $1.46 million in digital currency was seized from the suspects by the end of the raiding spree, with preliminary evidence indicating that Australians were the biggest victims of the scams.
The scheme used by the scamming syndicate involved placing social media advertisements to lure investors with the promise of quick and guaranteed results. Subsequently, victims are unable to recover their funds from the scheme, even after paying fictitious withdrawal fees and taxes.
Australia’s aging population and the unwillingness to crack down on digital currency crime incentivizes bad actors to focus their operations in the country, investigators say. In the last year, new data revealed that Australian citizens recorded nearly $300 million in losses to digital currency scammers.
“Australia’s wealth combined with a long history of state and federal authorities being unwilling or unable to investigate online investment fraud has made the country a sitting duck for the international crime syndicates behind the scams,” Mark Solomons, senior investigator at IFW Global, said.
Canada occupied the second spot in the list of countries with high digital currency scamming activities. Like Australia, a wealthy population and the reluctance of law enforcement to take decisive action against bad actors plays a vital role in the metrics.
“Australia and Canada vie for the top spot. They are rich countries with a low likelihood of a disciplined investigation or detection,” Solomons said.
A valiant attempt
To stifle the attempts of digital currency fraud, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has announced that it will be doubling the staff strength of its digital currency monitoring team.
Other plans include a nationwide awareness campaign by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to educate citizens on protecting themselves from digital currency scammers.
Service providers will be required to comply with international best practices to prevent a repeat of FTX’s ill-fated collapse under incoming industry regulators.
“We will establish a set of obligations and operational standards for crypto asset service providers to ensure they adequately safe-keep assets for customers,” Hon. Dr. Jim Chalmers said. “This will ensure consumers are protected from avoidable business failures or from the misuse of their assets by service providers.”
Watch: Trust But Verify Everything
New to Bitcoin? Check out CoinGeek’s Bitcoin for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about Bitcoin—as originally envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto—and blockchain.