Authorities in Italy and Albania have hit a fraud scheme enticing victims with promises of low-risk investments in cryptocurrencies. During an operation coordinated by Eurojust, investigators from the two countries searched a dozen locations and seized assets and computer equipment.
Fraudsters Contacted Investors From a Call Center in Tirana, Albania
Law enforcement officers in Italy and Albania have taken down an online fraud scheme offering fake investment opportunities related to cryptocurrencies. The investigation was carried out with the support of Eurojust, the EU agency responsible for judicial cooperation in Europe.
Authorities participating in the joint operation have seized €3 million (almost $3.2 million) worth of assets from the crime group that organized the scam. The total losses resulting from its activities have been estimated at €15 million (over $15.9 million), Eurojust detailed in a press release.
The perpetrators operated a call center in the Albanian capital Tirana, from which they contacted victims by phone and over the internet, using virtual phone numbers and VPNs. They convinced customers to open accounts on a dedicated website and make transfers.
The scammers would gain their trust by allowing them to secure a quick profit against a small initial investment. After consulting seemingly reputable trading platforms, the victims were contacted by “brokers” who suggested “zero-risk” crypto investments.
The members of the fraud scheme also tried to access the online banking of the victims using remote control software. Those who eventually uncovered the deception were contacted by other representatives of the platform who asked them to make additional payments in order to recover the lost funds.
The operation was carried out between Dec. 13 and Dec. 15 and arrest warrants were issued against the main suspects, Eurojust revealed without providing details on any detentions. Police searched 13 addresses in Albania and confiscated over 160 electronic devices in both countries, including computers, servers, and video recorders.
Italy opened the criminal case with Eurojust in 2020 and the agency facilitated the cooperation between the national authorities involved in the investigation, including by setting up a coordination center for the operation to dismantle the scam network.
Under similar circumstances, Ukraine’s Cyberpolice exposed in November a crypto fraud scheme making €200 million a year from fake investments in crypto assets and securities. It had offices and call centers with thousands of employees across Europe. Several European countries, including Albania, supported the investigation against that organization.
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Lubomir Tassev is a journalist from tech-savvy Eastern Europe who likes Hitchens’s quote: “Being a writer is what I am, rather than what I do.” Besides crypto, blockchain and fintech, international politics and economics are two other sources of inspiration.
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