Category Archives: Crime

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12 Japanese Arrested in Fake Cash for Bitcoin Fraud

An alleged scam in Japan has resulted in the arrests of 12 individuals accused of defrauding a Tokyo-based businessman of 190 million Japanese yen (JPY) in Bitcoin (approximately USD 1.8 million).

An investigation between Tokyo and Hyogo police revealed that in July 2017, a Tokyo-based marketing executive was approached by a group of “traders” who offered him JPY 200 million for the equivalent of JPY 190 million yen in Bitcoin. After the deal was carried out between the conmen and the businessman’s agent in a Tokyo hotel, the victim suggested that he wanted to trade covertly to avoid paying commission fees while swapping crypto-to-fiat at an exchange.

The seller then transferred his cryptocurrency to an exchange wallet account in Yokohama, although the fraudsters argued that they didn’t receive the Bitcoin. It turned out that the suitcase exchanged mainly contained false banknotes. Two days later they attempted to convert the stolen Bitcoin into JPY 174.2 million yen through the Yokohama exchange.

Seven men, all in their 20s, were arrested by police last week including the alleged mastermind, 24-year-old Kenta Higashi.

Japan has warmed to Bitcoin in a big way in recent years and legislation now acknowledges it as a legal payment method, despite the Bank of Japan’s ‘Let’s think about cryptocurrencies‘ statement where the bank warned about the likelihood of Bitcoin theft. Despite some notable thefts in recent years, this hasn’t deterred traders. Individual cryptocurrency traders in Japan now exceed three million according to the country’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) figures just released.

Despite frequent incidents of investor fraud and the USD 500 million hacking of a Japanese crypto exchange earlier this year, the country still emerges as a Bitcoin haven due to recent supportive regulatory legislation introduced by the government.

Japan has previously suspended operations of several crypto exchanges on security concerns, although individual groups such as the “Tokyo 12” preying on the vulnerability of a single victim are harder to control.

 

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“Big Bitcoin Heist” Escapes on Icelandic PM’s Plane

Robbery suspect Sindri Thor Stefansson has escaped from custody and fled to Sweden on a plane which was reported to have been carrying Icelandic Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir.

Stefansson was being detained on suspicions of being the mastermind behind what has become known in Iceland as “the big Bitcoin heist”, the robbery of 600 computers used to mine Bitcoin.

He escaped from the Sogn open prison in rural southern Iceland early on Tuesday and boarded a plane at Keflavik International Airport some 95km away. He was only reported missing after the flight to Stockholm had taken off.

Stefansson’s plane was also reported to have been carrying the Icelandic prime minister who was on her way to a meeting in Stockholm with five Nordic prime ministers and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In what is thought to be Iceland’s biggest theft, the 600 computers worth 200 million Icelandic krona (ISK) – about USD 2 million – were reportedly stolen in four separate burglaries. Stefansson, thought to have been the brains behind the heist,  was one of 11 people arrested. Police have arrested 22 people including a security guard.

Iceland has now become a centre for cryptocurrency mining due to the combination of plentiful renewable energy sources and a cold climate, suited for mining due to low electricity tariffs and low cooling costs. Lower costs generate higher profits for cryptocurrency miners, which have created a situation in Iceland where electricity consumption for mining has overtaken household use.

As yet, the computers haven’t been recovered and the owners have put out a USD 60,000 reward for their recovery. An international warrant has been issued for Stefansson’s arrest and Swedish police are now involved in the search. Several people, including the suspect’s wife, have been questioned by police but no arrests have been made, according to local media.

Iceland with its population of only 340,00 is reputed to have one of the world lowest crime rates.

 

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Illegal Russian Miners Charged With $1M Power Theft

Russian police have arrested two illegal cryptocurrency miners after a police raid on Thursday.

According to Russian media reports, more than 6,000 pieces of mining equipment were found at the site, an abandoned rubber factory in Orenburg, 1,478 kilometers southeast of Moscow near the Russian border with Kazakhstan.

Russian ministry of internal affairs spokesperson, Irina Volk, stated that the miners, two former factory employees, had stolen 8 million kW/h of electricity estimated to cost 60 million Russian rubles (RUB, approximately USD 968,000 at time of writing). Media reports suggest that despite rumors of the mining farm’s existence since March, police declined to comment if they had any knowledge of illegal activities taking place.

Earlier this year, Russian security officers arrested scientists at a top-secret warhead facility in Sarov, 240 miles east of Moscow. Several scientists had tried to use one of Russia’s most powerful supercomputers to mine Bitcoin. In mining, computers are used to solve mathematical problems to verify transactions and are rewarded in cryptocurrency.

The clandestine misappropriation of resources to mine cryptocurrency is a growing problem. Australian ABC News reported recently that the country’s bureau of meteorology was under investigation, with two of its IT employees suspected of using the bureau’s resources to mine cryptocurrencies, although no charges were laid.

Other examples are New York’s department of education and Louisiana’s Attorney General’s office allegedly misappropriating resources to mine cryptocurrencies. In December 2017, a former employee of the Federal Board of Directors was fined USD 5,000 after mining Bitcoin on a US Central Bank computer.

The Russian government is considering a new bill, currently circulating through Russia’s lower house, designed to amend tax codes to accommodate cryptocurrency miners. It labels mining as an “entrepreneurial activity”. Miners must register with the government, either as an individual entrepreneur or as a legal entity. Depending on how they register, miners could be subject to a 24% corporate tax rate if they register as a legal entity.

 

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FBI Warns of Crypto Exchange Fraudulent Support Staff

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced last week that a “problematic and widespread scam” using fraudulent cryptocurrency exchange support workers was currently active.

In its 28 March notice, the bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) stated that consumers had submitted numerous complaints, claiming losses of USD 11 million connected to tech fraud in 2017. The statement went on to indicate that it was often individual investors who were targetted by the scammers. Individual losses were often in the thousands of dollars.

In a typical scam, the fraudulent support worker asks for access to an individual’s wallet having posted a fake support number online. The scammer then posts the funds to another “temporary” wallet. The virtual currency is never returned to the customer.

Recent moves by some search engines and social network companies including Google to ban cryptocurrency advertising were initiated in part to alleviate similar problems. The FBI warned that scammers will use exhaustive means to locate and target individuals and companies. The IC3 reported receiving an average of 800 complaints a day in the United States on one particular scam site. It also suggested that scams are heavily underreported.

FBI agent Eimiller reported that one scam can represent only 15% of active scams at one given time: “If only one percent of people send money to them, there’s no overhead for them. That is money is in the bank.”.

Some precautionary tips

Be especially wary of offerings where a digital currency is below its market price, double check using reputable sources such as CoinMarketCap.

1. Check URLs and web addresses carefully to avoid being taken to a copy of an otherwise trustworthy site and bookmark these for future use. Look for a small spelling difference which can be a giveaway.

2. Some wallets have been created by scammers. Always use wallets recommended by the developers of a cryptocurrency and downloaded from the official source.

3. In general, don’t send cryptocurrency to random people over the internet unless you are donating or paying for a service which you have checked is reputable.

The FBI’s IC3 site includes a news and press room dropdown where warnings about current scams are listed. This includes a section for internet crime complaints.

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