According to evidence, Australians were among the top countries targeted in a sophisticated cryptocurrency investment fraud network with alleged Israeli kingpins.
Australians have been identified as the prime targets of a sophisticated network of Bitcoin call center fraudsters, which is alleged to be managed by Israeli criminal lords.
Information discovered during a full-scale operation on four Serbian contact centers and 11 houses by Serbian, German, Bulgarian, and Cyprus officials revealed that Australians were among the top nations targeted. The Australian reported the news on February 23.
During the raids, fifteen persons were detained and $1.46 million in cryptocurrency was recovered.
According to the investigation, fraudsters from these call centers reportedly exploited social media marketing to entice victims and promise attractive investment possibilities.
According to private investigation firms, Australians are particularly sought after by scammers due to their relative wealth and a long history of state and federal authorities being unwilling or unable to investigate online investment fraud: “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.”
Because many Australians are “kind” and “open-minded,” according to Mark Solomons, Senior Investigator at IFW Global, they’re more willing to explore online connections — especially “if the proper buttons are touched.”
“Australia and Canada compete for first place. These are wealthy countries with little chance of a thorough inquiry or discovery.”
“There are Israelis getting very, very rich by ripping off Australians and draining superannuation and retirement funds out of the Australian economy,” Solomons said, adding that most of the stolen cryptocurrency are used to finance the scammers’ opulent lives.
“We’re talking about folks who fly around in private aircraft, who have enormous assets, real estate, nice automobiles, and cash. They are freely moving around the world and purchasing boats,” Solomons noted.
While Europol revealed that the global operation took $3.1 million, they suspect the total number “may be in the hundreds of millions of euros.”
Solomons advised the Australian government to increase enforcement efforts at the state, federal, and international levels in comparison to other “well-resourced” nations in order to make targeting Australian investors less tempting to these fraudsters.
While some publications claim that Australians lost up to $2 billion in investment scams in 2021, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch database, Australians lost $323.7 million in 2021, which grew by a whopping 75.6% to $568.6 million in 2022.
According to the ACCC, crypto payments accounted for $221 million of the fraud losses.
In the first month of 2023, victims lost an extra $53.4 million.
To combat the problem, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission published a list of the “top ten techniques to recognize a crypto scam” in November to promote awareness.
The ACCC began testing a cybersecurity technology that automatically removes bogus websites in July 2022. The pilot was a success early on, with numerous crypto fraud sites being taken down quite fast.