InvestigationFront companies in Cyprus, touts in Bangladesh, Belarusian or Israeli agencies, call centers in Ukraine: thousands of people are being abused by a global scam based on advertisements for bitcoin investments.
“Excuse me, can you wait five minutes?” My wife thinks I am being cheated. “ Clas Backman puts the phone down for a moment, time to reassure his wife: no, if he speaks in English on the phone, it’s not because he’s in contact with scammers again, but to answer a journalist of World. This Swede was the victim, in 2019, of a fraud with false investments, operated by a call center (call center) offering attractive investments. He invested around 20,000 euros, and “Almost all lost”. His complaint is still being investigated, but he has few illusions: he will never see this money again.
Like hundreds of thousands of people around the world, Mr. Backman fell into the trap because of a simple online advertisement. In September 2019, he clicked on an insert for Bitcoin Trader, which presented itself as a trading in revolutionary cryptocurrency. After entering his details on the site, he is immediately called back by an “advisor”, who convinces him to place 250 dollars (210 euros).
The scam then follows a well-known scenario: at the beginning, the victim sees his earnings increase at great speed; her “advisers” urge her to deposit more money, to take advantage of an upward trend. Then, when the victim has invested all she can, or when she asks to withdraw her winnings, radio silence. The money is no longer available. Sometimes it was never invested anywhere – it just came to swell the crooks’ bank accounts.
The world investigated, in partnership with an international consortium of journalists, led by the Swedish daily Today’s News and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) network of journalists, associating a dozen other editors, on how these scams have reinvented themselves over the past three years. False investment scams are far from new, but they have become, for lack of a better term, much more “Professional” and “formidably effective”, explains Claire Castanet, director of relations with savers and their protection at the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF).
Efficient, and lucrative: according to estimates by the AMF, which conducted a large-scale survey over a year and a half, in 2017 and 2018, the damage caused by all investment scams in France amounted to around one billion euros over this period. And France is less affected by the phenomenon than other countries in Western Europe. According to the explanations of a source who worked for a call center operating the scams, those responsible for these scams avoid France, believing that its investigators are more effective than in other countries – a trend confirmed by several documents that The world was able to consult victim targeting databases or recruitment ads.
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