From Amsterdam to Rome, crypto con artist leaves a trail of rip-off victims
Scams targeting crypto companies have popped up over the last few years targeting crypto companies. European authorities are investigating.
Despite the fact that the crypto industry is barely regulated, it is rife with exploits, hacks, and digital pump-and-dump schemes – some of which net hundreds of millions of dollars in a matter of seconds from a computer somewhere, with the perpetrator’s identity typically hidden behind a fake online identity.
So it would seem almost quaint or pulled straight from a Hollywood script that a crew of smooth-acting fraudsters would spend weeks or months courting blockchain-project executives, unspooling a fanciful and elaborate investment narrative, then following through with in-person, face-to-face meetings at a restaurant – only to abscond with cryptocurrencies in the single-digit millions of dollars and disappear.
Yet this exact scenario has played out multiple times in recent months in cities across Europe, including Rome, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Brussels, based on interviews with victims and authorities.
There’s a crypto long con going on.
According to victims and a German police officer who has interacted with some of the victims, cases have been referred to authorities in Austria and Italy.
Despite the ongoing nature of the investigation, the officer asked not to be named. He said police categorize this wave of crypto scams as “rip deals” – tempting offers that promise large amounts of money but ultimately drain victims’ pockets.
Victims’ reports of their experiences with what appear to be fraud groups take the form of a common narrative: A scammer, posing as an investment broker, meets the victim in a restaurant or hotel lobby and requests evidence of resources. The target sets up a chosen crypto wallet which appears to be authentic – yet selected by the con artist – and funds it. When the money is sent off, somehow the scammers manage to deplete it. The main theories are based on them getting their victim’s confidential keys or taking advantage of flaws in the wallet’s security system.
It was announced earlier this month that Webaverse co-founder Ahad Shams had been victimized by a $4 million crypto hack after meeting with scammers posing as investors in a Rome hotel lobby.