Almost $22m in cryptos waiting to be claimed after scam

By Raffaele Redi

Crypto cash had been invested in fake savings and trading services

Greater Manchester Police offices                                 
Intelligence led to the discovery of USB sticks containing huge amounts of ethereum

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) have seized $22.25m (more than £16m) in cryptocurrency after intelligence led to the discovery of encrypted USB sticks containing huge amounts of ethereum (ETH).

According to the police, victims based in the UK, United States, Europe, China, Australia and Hong Kong deposited money, including life savings, into what they thought was an online saving and trading service using Binance Smart Chain.

However, the sums now waiting to be claimed were invested in fake savings and trading services, as scammers waited until a significant amount of money had been deposited before shutting down their website and transferring the funds into their accounts.

GMP's economic crime unit received intelligence that those running the scheme had been in Manchester for a limited time and tracked them down, recovering an encrypted USB stick containing $9.5m of stolen ethereum.

They found a further $12.7m a few days later after locating a cryptograph safety deposit box, effectively an online safe, and the code to access it.

The sum totalled 90% of the cryptocurrency stolen, and work has now begun on re-uniting it with the rightful owners, some of whom are still unknown and located across the world.

A 23-year-old male and a 25-year-old female were arrested for fraud and money-laundering offences. They have since been released under investigation.

Fraud crime trends

According to Action Fraud, a total of £2.35bn losses were reported for 2020/21 in the UK, while the highest harm threats for 2021/22 are courier, romance, payment diversion, investment, computer software service and frauds linked to card and online bank accounts.

The use of social media and encrypted messaging services to carry out fraud is increasing, with 80% of reported fraud now cyber-enabled. Search engine optimisation is also used by fraudsters to target victims – fairly evenly split between men and women.

Blockchain expert victim of fraud

According to @GMPFraud, a UK resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, fell victim to the scam despite working in the industry and using cryptocurrency for years.

He lost hundreds of thousands of poundsworth of cryptocurrency, but will now get 90% of his funds back following the recovery. If funds remain unclaimed, he will receive the full 100%.

"Crypto assets often aren't understood across the world and therefore are not taken seriously because the technology is so new, and it can be complicated," he said.

"I'm an experienced blockchain professional, I'd done all the research with friends who work in programming development to make sure it was safe," he said. "The hack surprised us at first. I had a significant amount of money in the project, I lost a lot. It's such a relief to get most of it back."

Detective Chief Inspector Joe Harrop of Greater Manchester Police's Economic Crime Unit said: "Organised crime is getting increasingly sophisticated in faking websites and services. Most of us can say we've got a text message from a seemingly known brand or bank, and it is harder than ever to tell if it's the real deal."

Further reading: Crypto fraud and asset recovery network to be launched in London


ETH/USD price history

Date Close Change Change(%) Open High Low
Dec 9, 2022 1284.26 4.11 0.32% 1280.15 1289.09 1272.92
Dec 8, 2022 1280.14 49.01 3.98% 1231.13 1293.04 1221.77
Dec 7, 2022 1231.29 -39.99 -3.15% 1271.28 1277.06 1218.33
Dec 6, 2022 1271.30 12.19 0.97% 1259.11 1274.70 1241.99
Dec 5, 2022 1259.07 -20.77 -1.62% 1279.84 1306.31 1246.51
Dec 4, 2022 1279.93 38.87 3.13% 1241.06 1286.96 1240.50
Dec 3, 2022 1241.07 -54.53 -4.21% 1295.60 1305.90 1236.86
Dec 2, 2022 1295.60 18.97 1.49% 1276.63 1297.73 1265.56
Dec 1, 2022 1276.50 -17.98 -1.39% 1294.48 1300.02 1259.75
Nov 30, 2022 1294.69 78.80 6.48% 1215.89 1309.65 1212.03
Nov 29, 2022 1215.91 48.86 4.19% 1167.05 1226.68 1158.28
Nov 28, 2022 1167.04 -26.14 -2.19% 1193.18 1198.74 1150.50
Nov 27, 2022 1193.17 -11.82 -0.98% 1204.99 1222.69 1188.49
Nov 26, 2022 1205.03 6.69 0.56% 1198.34 1234.05 1195.61
Nov 25, 2022 1198.35 -4.23 -0.35% 1202.58 1205.94 1169.66
Nov 24, 2022 1202.65 19.28 1.63% 1183.37 1216.42 1179.39
Nov 23, 2022 1183.35 45.31 3.98% 1138.04 1189.36 1126.32
Nov 22, 2022 1138.11 32.43 2.93% 1105.68 1141.38 1073.75
Nov 21, 2022 1105.62 -35.14 -3.08% 1140.76 1145.01 1078.20
Nov 20, 2022 1140.64 -76.79 -6.31% 1217.43 1225.95 1131.03
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