Millions returned to victims after GMP rumble crypto-currency scam
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Over four million pounds has been returned to rightful owners following an international crypto-currency scam rumbled by officers from GMP six months ago, with millions still yet to be claimed.
A sum of $22.25 million (equivalent to just over £16 million) was seized by specialist officers from Greater Manchester Police's Economic Crime Unit in July 2021, after intelligence led to the discovery of USB sticks containing huge amounts of Ethereum, the second largest Crypto-currency after BitCoin.
A total of 150 victims from all over the world contacted officers in the unit following the scam-bust which saw millions of pounds invested in a fake savings and trading service.
Over four million pounds has been returned to 23 verified victims and another 127 reported claims are currently being investigated by officers alongside partners in international law enforcement across the globe - leaving another seven million pounds to be returned to rightful owners.
Victims based in the UK, United States, Europe, China, Australia and Hong Kong had deposited money, including life savings, into what they thought was an online savings and trading service using Binance Smart Chain, which stores and records transactions made in crypto-currency confirming their movement and value.
The scammers operating the service waited until a significant amount of money had been deposited, before shutting down their website and transferring the funds into their own accounts. Unfortunately for them, the scammers did not disappear without trace.
Specialist officers received intelligence that those running the scheme had been in Manchester for a limited time and tracked them down, recovering an encrypted USB stick containing $9.5 million of stolen Ethereum.
A 23-year-old male and a 25-year-old female were arrested for fraud and money laundering offences. They have since been released under investigation pending further enquiries.
They found a further $12.7million a few days later after locating a Cryptograph safety deposit box, effectively an online safe, and the code to access it.
Detective Chief Inspector Joe Harrop, from GMP's Economic and Cyber Crime unit, said: "Crypto-currency saving and trading services are becoming increasingly popular, with projects offering incentives to people to invest significant amounts of money, offering tokens that can then be sold for a profit.
"Our lives are now online or on our phones, and currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are often seen as the future when it comes to money and trading.
"However, this type of crime is increasing across the globe and criminals are getting savvier by finding ways to exploit the trend, in ways even the most experienced users can't anticipate. The Economic and Cyber Crime Unit are working on a daily basis to tackle these growing number of cases in the digital and online world.
"Anyone involved in these Crypto-currency and trading services are urged to take extreme caution and do a lot of research as there are still huge risks. Online currency and trading is incredibly technical and need in-depth knowledge in order to make sure your money is safe. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
"Thankfully, we've returned over four million pounds to 23 individual victims and we're continuing to work through a large number of other reported claims where we can hopefully return even more money.
"We believe there may still be victims out there from all over the world who are owed some of this money we rumbled half a year ago. Anyone who thinks they may have been affected by this particular scam is asked to email [email protected]." Anyone affected by this particular scam should get in touch using the above email with the following details:
The name of the savings and trading service invested in
The name of the law enforcement you reported the crime to, and officer details
Wallet addresses and documentation to prove ownership
Follow @GMPFraud on Twitter to keep up to date with the latest information on digital and online scams.