The cybercrime combating unit of the Ukrainian police has uncovered a network of fraudulent crypto trading websites. Four people are suspected of offering the fake online exchange services. They have maintained at least six platforms luring cryptocurrency traders with deceptive messages.
Police on the Lookout for More Fake Exchangers
Officers from Ukraine’s Cyberpolice have exposed an organized group of scammers who created a network of fake online exchangers offering conversion of cryptocurrencies. According to a press release issued by the National Police, a number of sites have been used to deceive and defraud unsuspecting citizens who wanted to trade their cryptos.
“The criminal group consisted of four people […] possessing specialized knowledge and skills in programming,” the NPU’s press service said. They had set up their own CMS-system to manage the websites’ content. The platforms imitated the activities of legitimate online cryptocurrency exchangers, supporting multicurrency conversion, and even displayed fictitious positive ratings and reviews.
The victims were invited to transfer their money to digital wallets registered with forged identification documents under false names of foreign citizens. After receiving some funds through a particular platform, the scammers would close it and open a new one, law enforcement officials explained.
So far, Ukrainian police have found at least six fake websites: moneycraft.info, swapex.net, myexchanger.lv, iconvex.net, likechange.biz, and wowex.online, Financial Club reports. Most have been taken down already, with one now redirecting to sites with pornographic content. Investigators believe there are more undiscovered websites and have asked the public to report suspicious platforms to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Three of the suspects, aged between 20 and 26 years, have been implicated directly in the six established fraud schemes. They are all residents of the city of Dnepropetrovsk. The police have opened criminal proceedings against them under Section 3 of Article 190 (Fraud) of Ukraine’s Criminal Code.
Officers have already conducted authorized searches at the addresses of the suspects. They have seized computer equipment, including flash drives, as well as bank cards and mobile phones that were used by the scammers. The Cyberpolice unit is currently studying the identified websites to determine the size of the fraud.
Ukraine’s Booming Crypto Trade
In the last couple of years, Ukraine has been experiencing a growing interest in cryptocurrencies with a rising trend in crypto trading volume. According to the latest reports, the estimated daily crypto-hryvnia turnover on the three major Ukrainian exchanges, Exmo, Kuna and BTC Trade UA, reaches $1.9 – $2 million USD (~$700 million, yearly). The total is likely to be even higher, as at least eighteen other trading platforms and more than 4,000 individual traders are believed to provide exchange services, both online and offline.
A recently conducted survey found that 72 percent of Internet-savvy Ukrainians know what cryptocurrency is and another 23 percent have heard about it. At least 13 percent of those using the world wide web possess digital coins, the poll confirmed. A number of Ukrainian officials have declared owning digital assets on their tax returns.
According to a new report titled “Green Book: Cryptocurrency Market Regulation”, Ukraine is among the top 10 countries in the world in terms of number of cryptocurrency users, while local companies have created 25 new digital coins, raising $132 million in less than two years.
Cryptocurrencies, however, and the fintech industry as a whole, remain largely unregulated. Three draft laws have been introduced in the Rada since October, with no real progress so far. These are the bill “On the Circulation of Cryptocurrency in Ukraine”, the law “On Stimulating the Market of Cryptocurrencies and Their Derivatives”, and a supplementary draft amending the tax code to cover crypto incomes and profits.
Multiple government officials and institutions have insisted on adopting proper crypto regulations, and Ukraine’s Cyberpolice is one of them. In January, the cybercrime combating department shared its concerns about cryptocurrencies and called on the government to either ban them or legalize them “as soon as possible.”
Do you think regulations can effectively ban fraudulent platforms and support legitimate exchanges? Share your thoughts on the subject in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Financial Club, National Police of Ukraine.
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