Fraudsters pretended to help victims get their money back from trading scam before defrauding them for a second time
A suspected organised crime group were disrupted in Bucharest, Romania, yesterday after the National Crime Agency and Romanian Police searched two apartments believed to be operating as boiler-rooms for fraud.
After receiving data from the Romanian authorities, the Complex Financial Crime Team at the NCA launched an investigation into the group, who it’s believed was carrying out fraud on a mass scale from rented penthouse apartments in the North of Bucharest. The group typically targeted people who were already defrauded through a separate trading investment scam.
Three people, all residing in Romania, were interviewed by Romanian authorities about their suspected involvement.
All are believed to have played leading roles in the operation.
Aware that the victims would be vulnerable and desperate for solutions to get their money back, the alleged scammers would re-initiate contact under the guise of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or other regulatory body, claiming that they would be able to help recover losses.
Using tactics familiar in both recovery and advance-fee fraud, they’d ask the victim for an upfront fee. When victims paid, the money was swiftly transferred away into a crypto wallet and communication would cease.
Officers seized material that indicated a script was followed to make calls to victims and false referrals to the ‘FCA Crypto Department’. High Value crypto currency wallets were identified, but on examination were found to be false and suspected to have been used to demonstrate to victims that recovered funds were available to repay their initial investment losses.
The NCA believes that this represents serious and organised crime, with systematic attempts to target victims all across Europe on massive scale.
Suzanne Foster, NCA Branch Commander for Complex Financial Crime Team, said: “Working closely with Romanian Law Enforcement has been invaluable in bringing about the disruption of this suspected organised crime group.
“Victims have potentially lost huge sums to this fraud and we will be working to trace these stolen funds as we continue the investigation.
“The NCA and Romanian authorities have demonstrated that fraudsters can be disrupted even when they base themselves in countries far away from their victims.”
Adrian Searle, Director of the NCA’s National Economic Crime Centre (NECC), said: “The NCA and NECC is committed to working with UK and international partners to protect the public from fraud. This case demonstrates that through international cooperation we can and will disrupt criminal groups targeting the UK public from overseas.
“All frauds can have a devastating impact on their victims, but recovery fraud is particularly heartless as it targets people who have already been victimised and preys on the natural desire to make back money previously lost to fraud.
“If you think you have been a victim of this fraud or any other, you should report it to Action Fraud and follow the advice on the Action Fraud website, which offers straight-forward and impartial advice to help people spot scams and protect themselves against fraud. We would urge those that have unfortunately been defrauded to be aware of the risk of falling victim to recovery fraud.”
8 September 2022