Call centres selling fake crypto taken down in Bulgaria, Serbia and Cyprus

Law enforcement and judicial authorities from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany and Serbia, supported by Europol and Eurojust, have teamed up against organised crime groups involved in online investment fraud, European police cooperation agency Europol said on January 12.

“This criminal network, comprising a number of different criminal actors operating through call centres, lured victims into investing large amounts of money into fake cryptocurrency schemes,” Europol said.

On January 11, there were 15 arrests, 14 in Serbia and one in Germany.

The statement said that 261 individuals were questioned, some of whom are awaiting prosecution – 42 in Bulgaria, two in Cyprus, three in Germany and 214 in Serbia.

Twenty-two locations were searched – five in Bulgaria, two in Cyprus and 15 in Serbia, including four call centres and 11 residences in Serbia, two residences in Cyprus, and two companies and three residences in Bulgaria.

Seizures include three hardware wallets with about $1 million in cryptocurrencies on it and about 50 000 euro in cash, three vehicles, electronic equipment and data back-ups and documents.

Europol said that the suspects used advertisements on social networks to lure victims to websites covertly operated by the criminals, which offered seemingly exceptional investment opportunities in cryptocurrencies.

The victims, mainly from Germany, would first invest low, three-digit sums.

Fake price hikes leading to supposedly lucrative profits for investors then persuaded them to make transfers of higher amounts.

The statement said that currently, it is estimated that the financial damage to German victims is over two million euro, while other countries such as Switzerland, Australia and Canada also have victims.

The investigation suggests that the number of unreported cases is likely to be much higher, Europol said.

“This would mean that the illegal gains generated by the criminal groups, with at least four call centres in eastern Europe, may be in the hundreds of millions of euro,” the agency said.

(Photo: Andre Rainaud/

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