Europol supports hit on Investment Fraud Network

Insignia of the Lithuanian PoliceOn 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

EFECCThe 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.

FRAUD DEFINITIONS

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).

Investment fraud gang taken down in Bulgaria and Serbia

Investment fraudA large criminal network involved in investment fraud, money laundering and social engineering was taken down in an international investigation, launched one year ago. The action day, which took place in Belgrade and Sofia, went ahead on 2 April despite the current lockdown.

Estimated total losses were €80 million and the fraud affected over 1,000 victims in Germany and Austria, as well as people in other countries.  In Austria  it is estimated that 850 victims lost around €2.2 million, while in Germany hundreds of victims suffered estimated losses of about €10 million.

The suspects, believed to be members of a large criminal network, offered bogus investments in trading products such as binary options and contract for differences (CFDs) on online trading platforms.  The investments started at around €250 and Agents from call centres in Bulgaria and Serbia then manipulated the victims to make much higher investments in non-existent trading products including CFDs and forex (foreign exchange currency market).

During the action day Law enforcement authorities from Bulgaria and Serbia carried out 11 house searches and arrested 9 individuals (5 in Serbia and 4 in Bulgaria). Two of the leaders of the criminal network were arrested in Sofia. The seizures include five properties in Serbia, €2.5 million from a bank account in Germany, electronic equipment and other evidential material. 30 other bank accounts were put under surveillance.  

Advisory Group on Financial ServicesEuropol and Eurojust supported the investment fraud investigation, which involved law enforcement and judicial authorities from Austria, Bulgaria, Germany and Serbia.  

Europol facilitated information exchange and provided analytical support, cross-checking operational information in real-time against its databases to provide leads to investigators in the field, and a Joint Investigation Team between Austria and Germany was set up by Eurojust to coordinate judicial matters.

EAST and Europol have worked together since 2004 and EAST provides secure platforms for public/private sector cooperation in the fight against organised criminal groups engaged in financial crime.  Click here for more information on EAST’s law enforcement relationships.

The EAST Payments Task Force (EPTF) has a specific focus on tackling social enginnering  This Group, which meets twice a year, adds value to the payments industry by using the unique and extensive EAST National Member platform and Associate Member network to provide information and outputs that are not currently available elsewhere.