Security

Europol Coordinated the Dismantling of Investment Fraud Network

By Bill Toulas / March 26, 2021

Europol has announced the dismantling of a large investment fraud network operating across several European countries, estimated to have made over €1.5 million from at least 38 victims. The simultaneous police raids and house searches that took place on March 4, 2021, in Lithuania, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom have resulted in five arrests.

Moreover, the law enforcement authorities have frozen bank accounts worth over €1.2 million, so there’s hope that the tricked victims will get a significant part of the stolen money back. The seizures also include computers and documents that are going to be used for subsequent investigations.

The fraudsters mainly targeted academics in Germany, inviting them to invest funds in saving accounts hosted on foreign online deposit platforms. The promotion happened through malvertising, so the victims actually found these services themselves and applied online. In reality, though, the accounts they thought belonged to them were still controlled by Lithuanian companies that ran the scam, so the victims essentially just moved money into the fraudsters’ pockets.

The trick was to present these as savings accounts, locking them for six months and up to three years. The idea was to earn enough time to move the funds on other accounts that would go beyond the authorities' tracing capability - or so they thought. Typically, the actors moved the money to Swedish banks and cashed it out at ATMs there.

With the help of Europol, EU member state police forces were able to exchange key information and find the trace, setting up a highly-targeted dismantling operation that ended up in success. If the actors had taken the money outside the EU, though, this could be a different story.

Keep that in mind the next time you find something with amazing terms online, ask your colleagues, do your research, and check the website thoroughly for any signs of trickery. Read the “About Us” page, contact the platform via phone, ask for details, and make some targeted questions.



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