On 4 March 2021, Europol supported a hit on a large investment fraud network operating in several EU Member States. The investigation, led by the Lithuanian Police (Lietuvos Policija), and involving law enforcement authorities from Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom, was also assisted by Eurojust. By offering fake Retirement Plans, the network defrauded its German victims of a total of €1.5 million.
HOW THE SCAM WORKED
The criminal network specifically targeted academics in Germany, offering fake accounts that in reality belonged to Lithuanian companies that were behind the investment fraud scam. The victims wanted to invest their funds in saving accounts hosted on foreign online deposit platforms. The victims found the offers themselves, and then applied for the services. They also sent deposits to individual accounts opened under their names. The criminals offered them fake savings accounts, where the funds had to be deposited for a significant time period, usually between six months and three years. This gave them time to escape with the funds and hide their traces. On receipt the criminals transferred the funds to accounts in other EU Member States, and part of them were cashed out at ATMs in Sweden. A total of €1.5 million was stolen in this way.
LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTION
The action day in Lithuania led to:
- 26 house searches (18 in Lithuania and 8 in Sweden)
- 5 arrests (4 in Lithuania and 1 in Sweden)
- 38 victims identified
- Accounts worth more than €1.2 million frozen (€500,000 in Lithuania and €700,000 in other countries)
- Seizures include electronic equipment and various documents
Europol supported the operation by facilitating information exchange and providing analytical support. During the action days, Europol cross-checked operational information in real-time against Europol’s databases to provide leads to investigators in the field.
The EAST Payments Task Force (EPTF), which meets three times each year, focuses on the prevention of payment fraud. It has provided fraud definitions to be adopted globally when describing or reporting payment or terminal fraud. Investment Fraud is classified as a form of Technological Fraud (Attacks against Technology).