(RightWing.org) – Cryptocurrency has experienced significant growth in the last few years, with the United States leading the trend. However, these new financial assets present public vulnerabilities to the rising misdeeds of cybercriminals and online scam artists. Now, the Department of Justice is striking back, most recently ordering several seizures in a massive crackdown.
On April 3, the department issued a press release detailing its recent confiscation of more than $112 million in funds linked to cryptocurrency scams. Federal judges in the Districts of Arizona and Idaho and California’s Central District authorized federal law enforcement officials to seize six virtual currency accounts.
Justice Department Seizes Over $112M in Funds Linked to Cryptocurrency Investment Schemeshttps://t.co/8anAAIAeEy
— Criminal Division (@DOJCrimDiv) April 3, 2023
Court documents indicated that cybercriminals used the accounts to launder money they received from “various cryptocurrency confidence scams.” Online fraudsters would reportedly spend time building online relationships with their intended victims. Eventually, they would lure them into investing in “fraudulent cryptocurrency platforms.” Once the victims made the investments, the cybercriminals funneled the money to accounts controlled by them and their accomplices and co-conspirators.
The US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California issued a supplemental press statement elaborating on the scheme. The notice explained that cryptocurrency investment schemes are typically called “pig butchering.”
An affidavit filed by Los Angeles investigators in support of their seizure warrant noted that the fraudsters call their victims “pigs” because they “use elaborate storylines to ‘fatten up’ [their] victims” and convince them they are in “close” or “romantic” personal relationship with the online scam artists.
According to the Justice Department, investment fraud schemes led to roughly $3.31 billion in victim losses in 2022, the highest level of any scam reported to the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center. Additionally, scams involving cryptocurrencies — including pig butchering hustles — increased “a staggering 183%” in 2022 over the previous year.
It remains unclear if federal officials have yet taken anyone into custody over the alleged illegal operations. The FBI’s Phoenix Office is heading up the investigation.
If you or anyone you know is a victim of cryptocurrency investment fraud, you can go to www.fbi.gov/cryptoguard for additional information. You can also call 1-800-CALL-FBI or contact your local FBI field office.
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