Over £4 million has been returned to rightful owners following an international cryptocurrency scam that was rumbled by Greater Manchester Police.
It’s come after a sum of $22.25 million (which is equivalent to just over £16 million) was seized by specialist officers from Greater Manchester Police’s Economic Crime Unit in July 2021, when intelligence led to the discovery of USB sticks containing huge amounts of Ethereum – the second largest Crypto-currency after BitCoin.
A total of 150 victims from all over the world contacted officers in the unit following the scam-bust, which GMP says saw millions invested in a fake savings and trading service.
Over £4 million has now been returned to 23 verified victims, and another 127 reported claims are currently being investigated by officers alongside partners in international law enforcement across the globe.
Victims based in the UK, United States, Europe, China, Australia and Hong Kong had 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 crypto-currency confirming their movement and value.
The scammers operating the service waited until a significant amount of money had been deposited, before shutting down their website and transferring the funds into their own accounts.
Unfortunately for them, the scammers did not disappear without trace.
Specialist officers received intelligence that those running the scheme had been in Manchester for a limited time and tracked them down, and
Officers first recovered an encrypted USB stick containing $9.5 million of stolen Ethereum, and they found a further $12.7million a few days later after locating a Cryptograph safety deposit box – which is effectively an online safe – and the code to access it.
A 23-year-old male and a 25-year-old female were arrested for fraud and money laundering offences, but they have since been released under investigation pending further enquiries.
It’s not over yet either, as another £7 million still needs to be claimed by rightful owners.
Speaking on the return of the funds, and issuing a warning on cryptocurreny services, Detective Chief Inspector Joe Harrop – from GMP’s Economic and Cyber Crime Unit – said: “Anyone involved in these cryptocurrency and trading services are urged to take extreme caution and do a lot of research as there are still huge risks.
“Online currency and trading is incredibly technical and need in-depth knowledge in order to make sure your money is safe.
“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
“Thankfully, we’ve returned over four million pounds to 23 individual victims and we’re continuing to work through a large number of other reported claims where we can hopefully return even more money [but] 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.”
Anyone who thinks they may be affected by this particular scam should get in touch with GMP on [email protected] with the following details:
- The name of the savings and trading service invested in
- The name of the law enforcement you reported the crime to, and officer details
- Wallet addresses and documentation to prove ownership
Featured Image – QuoteInspector