Italy and Albania bust a €15 million crypto-currency investment scam

Italian and Albanian authorities have busted a scam aimed at luring victims with promises of low-risk investments in cryptocurrencies. In an operation coordinated by Eurojust, investigators from both countries searched a dozen sites and seized property and computer equipment.

The fraudsters contacted investors from a call center in Tirana, Albania.

Law enforcement agencies in Italy and Albania have busted an online fraud scheme offering fake investment opportunities related to cryptocurrencies. The investigation was conducted with the support of Eurojust, the EU agency responsible for judicial cooperation in Europe.

Authorities participating in the joint operation seized assets worth €3 million (nearly $3.2 million) from the criminal group that organized the scam. Total losses resulting from its activities were estimated at €15 million, Eurojust detailed in a press release.

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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 earned their trust by allowing them to get a quick profit for a small initial investment. After visiting seemingly reputable trading platforms, victims were contacted by “brokers“who offered them investments in crypto-currencies”zero risk“.

Members of the fraud scheme also attempted to access the victims’ online banking services using remote control software. Those who eventually discovered the deception were contacted by other representatives of the platform who asked them to make additional payments in order to recover the lost funds.

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The operation was carried out between December 13 and 15 and arrest warrants were issued for the main suspects, Eurojust revealed without providing details of any detentions. Police searched 13 addresses in Albania and confiscated more than 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 cooperation among the national authorities involved in the investigation, including setting up a coordination center for the operation to dismantle the fraud ring.

In similar circumstances, Ukrainian cyber police in November exposed a crypto-currency scam scheme making 200 million euros a year through fake investments in crypto assets and securities. It had offices and call centers with thousands of employees across Europe. Several European countries, including Albania, have supported the investigation against this organization.

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