June 16, 2024

Online Security

AP

NEW YORK (AP) — Officials in New York City announced on Thursday they had thwarted an internet fraud scheme which robbed victims of millions via false cryptocurrency investments.

Eric Gonzalez, District Attorney for Brooklyn, revealed his department had commandeered 21 website domains employed by fraudsters in so-called “pig butchering” scams. This term alludes to swindlers gaining victims’ trust using dating sites or similar platforms before directing them towards fraudulent investments.

“Brooklyn and the rest of the nation lose billions of dollars annually through ‘pig butchering’, a rapidly growing form of fraud,” stated Gonzalez. “Our goal is to dismantle these scams by seizing their online platforms and raising public awareness.”

He cautioned the public against incredible crypto investment opportunities and advised against downloading apps from unauthenticated crypto websites.

Last year, the New York Police Department received 50 reports of online crypto fraud, although this number is undoubtedly underestimated due to victims’ embarrassment or lack of knowledge about reporting such crimes, stated Gonzalez.

Victims who did report their experiences claimed losses exceeding $4 million solely in Brooklyn, a figure Gonzalez described as “heart-wrenching.”

“People are losing massive amounts of money, sometimes even their life savings or homes,” he relayed during a press briefing.

Gonzalez shared the story of a 51-year-old woman who informed police last year that she had lost $22,680 after joining online groups discussing crypto investments.

The woman had made eight deposits and received statements showing her account balance had grown to $387,495. However, when she attempted to withdraw her initial investment, she was told she needed to pay taxes. After voicing her dissatisfaction, she was removed from the chat group, and her money disappeared, stated Gonzalez.

Investigators discovered her money had been transferred to various cryptocurrency addresses, deposited into an account at an overseas crypto exchange, and withdrawn by an individual located likely in China, a region beyond U.S. jurisdiction. The investigation also identified victims from California, Pennsylvania, and Illinois who had collectively lost $366,665 through the same scheme, according to Gonzalez.

An anonymous woman, who recounted her experience in a video released by the district attorney’s office, was initially approached by a scammer on a dating app.

“I felt safe and trustful due to his flirtatious manner,” said the woman, who was attempting to buy out her ex-husband’s share of their house.

Although she had initial reservations when the fraudster persuaded her to invest in crypto, she went on to lose $118,000 through a personal loan and her retirement fund.

“I feel utterly foolish,” she admitted.

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