Fake crypto-exchange site thought to have claimed 4,000 victims in 12 countries

Six individuals have been arrested in the UK and the Netherlands following a 14-month investigation into a €24 million ($27 million) cryptocurrency theft, authorities have confirmed.

In a press release issued by Europol yesterday, five unnamed men and one woman were arrested in simultaneous warrants at their homes in Charlcombe, Lower Weston, and Staverton (UK), and Amsterdam and Rotterdam (Netherlands).

“The theft, which targeted users’ Bitcoin tokens, is believed to have affected at least 4,000 victims in 12 countries, with the numbers continuing to grow,” Europol said.

“The investigation relates to typosquatting, where a well-known online cryptocurrency exchange was ‘spoofed’ – or recreated to imitate the genuine site – to gain access to victims’ Bitcoin wallets, stealing their funds and login details.”

The arrests were made by the UK’s South West Regional Cyber Crime Unit (SW RCCU), in a joint operation with the Dutch police (Politie), Europol, Eurojust, and the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA).

Detective Inspector Louise Boyce from the SW RCCU said: “The investigation has grown from a single report of £17k worth of bitcoin stolen from a Wiltshire-based victim to a current estimate of more than four thousand victims in at least 12 countries.

“As part of today’s operation, we’ve seized a large number of devices, equipment and valuable assets with huge support from our colleagues in Avon and Somerset Police, Wiltshire Police, Tarian, and the South East ROCU.”

The case was referred to the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and the Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT) after the British authorities identified possible suspects living in the Netherlands, Europol said.

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