Today, Europol celebrated the capture of a “high-value target” this week after the arrest in Tenerife of a suspected prolific fraudster, said to have conned scores of investors.
It appears that the 50-year-old Croatian man is believed to have run a large-scale investment fraud operation which managed to extract at least €5m ($4.9m) from victims. Thus far, 70 German investors have been identified, Europol claimed.
In addition to his arrest, 37 property searches were carried out in Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Hungary, illustrating the extent of the fraud operation.
Further to this, the suspect apparently posed as an employee of a real Genevan investment company to gain the trust of his victims, using a spoofed website to confer legitimacy on the scam.
Additionally, investment documents were also spoofed to appear as if legitimate banks and insurance companies backed the scheme. Investors were instructed to wire their funds to various bank accounts controlled by the scammer.
Once created, he would disappear and then move money about across the continent in order to conceal their origin, Europol explained.
Advice from the policing organization urged investors to avoid potential scams by:
- Always researching the company directly, if contacted via an unsolicited email, social media outreach or phone call
- Check for fraudulent websites by looking for misspellings, email addresses and URLs. They may also want to check local financial regulator lists of abused websites
- Avoid suspicious payment methods such as instructions to wire funds offshore or pay via cryptocurrency
To conclude, investment fraud continues to be big business for cyber-criminals. It made them over $1.4bn last year, according to reports made with the FBI. That’s more than any other cybercrime type other than business email compromise (BEC).