Ukraine Cracks Down on Investment Scams, Raids Call CentersCyber Police Raid More Than a Dozen Call Centers Staffed by Fraudsters
Ukrainian cyber police raided and closed more than a dozen fraudulent call centers last week, saying the operations were running fake investment scams that involved stealing cryptocurrency and payment card details from European and Central Asian citizens.
The Cyber Police of Ukraine have been raiding call centers across the country over the past week. In the largest crackdown, on Saturday, police raided nine fraudulent call centers that involved more than 200 operators working in the Kyiv and Dnipro regions of Ukraine.
The operators in the Dnipro call centers ran vishing activities, posing as bank and other financial institution employees to obtain credit and debit card data, including card numbers, CVV codes, expiration dates and one-time passwords. The information was then used to siphon money from victim accounts to an operator-controlled account.
Operators in the Kyiv call centers ran a scam that enticed victims to invest their money for high returns and financial pyramid projects. Both schemes targeted citizens of European countries, the cyber police said.
Police seized mobile phones, computer equipment, data drives and cellular starter packs at the raided locations. They have not yet determined the number of victims or the amount of funds stolen in the two schemes.
On Friday, the cyber police, in coordination with the national police, busted four other call centers in the Kyiv and Lyiv regions that had been running investment scams targeting Azerbaijani citizens.
The scammers promised passive income from investments on international financial exchanges to lure victims. To gain the victims' trust, they developed an independent software that simulated the process of trading in world currency and financial market.
The mastermind behind this entire setup is a 28-year-old unnamed Kyiv resident who worked with six accomplices.
Police - who raided 25 locations including residences, cars of suspects and call centers - recovered computer equipment, mobile phones, bank cards, stamps and cash in various currencies adding up to $487,256.
Police also seized 126 bank accounts and six cryptocurrency wallets used in these illicit activities. The blocked accounts held $406,000 at the time of seizure.
On Thursday, police accused an organized group of criminals, consisting of three Kharkiv residents, of running a similar fraudulent investment scheme. The operators had created a website for investments in bankable metals, foreign currency, securities and cryptocurrency. Investors were promised profits in excess of 400% to 500%, depending on the amount of investment made. The scammers advertised these schemes on several Telegram channels.
A software interface on the fraud site simulated agreements on the purchase and sale of assets and displayed fictitious growth of profits. To keep victims from getting suspicious, the criminal group also set up a call center and hired operators to answer calls.
The cyber police department's investigation established that the investment scheme had mainly been targeting foreign citizens - in particular, residents of Georgia, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. The scammers made nearly $55,000 in this campaign.
Scammers from Ukraine also are targeting victims in North America. Last week, the Cyber Police of Ukraine disrupted a cryptocurrency scam that ran through two call centers in the Khmelnytskyi region of Ukraine, mainly targeting Ukrainian citizens living in Canada (see: Ukrainian Police Disrupt Cryptocurrency Scam Aimed at Canada).