A fake financial service platform operating in Bulgaria, Cyprus and Ukraine has been dismantled by Europol and police in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany, Netherlands and Ukraine. At least Euro 15 million has been lost in fake transactions via the fake financial service. The group operated via two call centres in Sofia, Bulgaria with approximately 100 employees, according to a press release from Europol.
The group was behind an online trading platform for financial services with binary options. Europol set up an Operational Task Force to support the cross-border investigation.
At a coordinated action in Kiev, Limassol and Sofia:
- 8 house were searches (5 in Bulgaria, 1 in Cyprus, 2 in Ukraine)
- 17 individuals were questioned in Bulgaria
- One high value target was arrested in Cyprus
- Seizures included phones, electronic equipment, bank accounts and data back-ups
”Operating between May 2019 and September 2021, the criminal network lured German investors into making transactions worth a total of at least € 15 million. The suspects advertised the financial services online and via social media, while using over 250 domain names”, Europol said.
The criminal network connected to a company, based in Ukraine, set up a call centre in Bulgaria.
The approximately 100 employees of the two call centres, located in Sofia, contacted “clients” and advertised pretend financial services in the field of binary options under the guise of financial advisers.
To undertake the scam, the call centre employees had scripts containing predefined conversations and key messaging to convince clients to release more funds.
Europol says a subsequent investigation suggests that most of the employees were not aware that the company they were working for was involved in a fraud scheme.
”Initial profits shown in the user interface encouraged the clients to invest large sums of money. However, clients did not receive payment of their winnings or credit balance once they requested it”, Europol explained.
The investigation has so far led to 246 criminal proceedings across 15 German federal states.