Greater Manchester Police have returned £4m to its rightful owners after successfully bringing down an international crypto scam.
Some $22.3m (£16m) was seized by specialist officers from the Manchester police force in June last year who busted a fake crypto savings and trading service to recover victims’ money. A total of 150 victims from all over the world claim to have been affected by the scam and 23 claimants have so far been verified by police and had their money returned.
Detective Chief Inspector Joe Harrop, an economic and cyber crime expert from Manchester Police force said “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,” he continued, urging anyone involved in crypto currency trading to “take extreme caution” as there are “huge risks” involved.
Victims from the UK, US, Europe, Chine, Austrlia and Hong Kong 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 cryptocurrency confirming their movement and value.
The scammers operating the service waited for millions of dollars worth of crypto to be deposited, before shutting down their website and transferring the funds into their own accounts.
Police where able to track the scammers to an address in Manchester and recovered an encrypted USB stick containing $9.5m worth of stolen Ether. A further $12.7m was recovered a few days later from a Cryptograph safety deposit box, effectively an online safe.
Those behind the crypto scam may still be on the loose according to police. While a 23-year-old male and a 25-year-old female were initially arrested for fraud and money laundering offences, they have since been released under investigation pending further enquiries.
“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,” said Harrop, encouraging anyone affected by the scam to come forward.
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