Authorities arrested six suspects including five males and one female in simultaneous raids carried out in a joint operation. The raids and subsequent arrests were carried out to trace $28 million worth of stolen Bitcoin.
The raids were conducted as part of a 14-month long, large-scale, global police investigation involving European law enforcement agencies including Europol, European intelligence agency, and Europol’s Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce, Eurojust, along with the South West Regional Cyber Crime Unit of UK, and Dutch police department Politie.
According to the police, the arrested individuals, aged between 19 and 37, created replica websites for popular cryptocurrency exchanges including Blockchain.com. Using fake exchange sites, scammers managed to trap unsuspecting users into visiting them.
Furthermore, they created fraudulent Google Adwords buys so that Google search users are redirected to the replica sites. Through the fake cryptocurrency exchange site Blockchain.com, the individuals stole login credentials and emptied the digital wallets of at least 4,000 victims using typosquatting technique to create a fake replica of the desired platform.
Typosquatting is a technique in which fraudsters create fake domain names that are a spoofed version of the actual/original that’s being replicated.
As for the raids, three of the male suspects were arrested from Somerset and Wiltshire counties while two Dutch suspects were arrested from Rotterdam and Amsterdam while the rest were captured from Bath and Charlcombe. The accused are charged with money laundering and misusing computer.
“As part of today’s operation, we’ve seized a large number of devices, equipment, and valuable assets with huge support from our colleagues in Avon and Somerset Police, Wiltshire Police, Tarian and the South East ROCU. Devon and Cornwall and the Metropolitan Police also provided vital help in the form of their two cyber dogs, who played key roles in searching suspects’ homes,” the Police said.
It is worth mentioning that the gang was arrested on Tuesday from their homes. During the raids, authorities confiscated electronic equipment and devices and two specially trained dogs were used for sniffing gadgets like computers and storage devices.
Our @swrccu investigation into a £22m cyber fraud has led to 6 arrests today.
Estimated 4k victims targeted. More here https://t.co/FhAgUhYulY Great joint effort including @Europol @Eurojust @NCA_UK and support from @ASPolice @wiltshirepolice @SouthEastROCU
— South West ROCU (@SWROCU) June 25, 2019
The investigation started after a victim based in Wiltshire reported about stolen bitcoin worth £17k and so far the number of victims reporting similar crime has grown astoundingly while the scope of attack also expanded to 12 countries.