The UK National Crime Agency (NCA) joined forces with the Romanian police to raid an organised crime group in Bucharest which targeted thousands of fraud victims in Britain.
The operation saw the agencies search two apartments in the Romanian capital, as they believed the properties were being used as boiler rooms.
According to the NCA, the gang contacted people who had lost money via an investment trading scam under the pretence of helping them get their money back – only to defraud them for a second time.
Following the raid, three Romanian residents were interviewed by the local police. The two agencies believe all three played leading roles in the scam.
The NCA said the gang targeted victims they knew would be vulnerable and desperate to get their money back. They would initiate contact by pretending to call from the Financial Conduct Authority or other regulatory bodies, claiming they would be able to recover the victims’ losses.
They used similar tactics to recovery and advance-fee fraud, which asks for an upfront payment. Once the victims paid, the money was quickly transferred into a crypto wallet and all communication would be ended.
NCA and Romanian police officers recovered documents showing scammers used a script to make calls to the victims disguising themselves as being part of the ‘FCA Crypto Department’. Some of the material seized showed false high-value cryptocurrency wallets that the agencies suspect were used to trick victims into thinking the supposed recovered funds were already available to repay their original investment losses.
Suzanne Foster, NCA branch commander for complex financial crime team, said: “Working closely with Romanian law enforcement has been invaluable in bringing about the disruption of this suspected organised crime group.
“Victims have potentially lost huge sums to this fraud, and we will be working to trace these stolen funds as we continue the investigation. The NCA and Romanian authorities have demonstrated that fraudsters can be disrupted even when they base themselves in countries far away from their victims.”
Adrian Searle, director of the NCA’s National Economic Crime Centre (NECC), added: “The NCA and NECC is committed to working with UK and international partners to protect the public from fraud. This case demonstrates that through international cooperation we can and will disrupt criminal groups targeting the UK public from overseas.
“All frauds can have a devastating impact on their victims, but recovery fraud is particularly heartless as it targets people who have already been victimised and preys on the natural desire to make back money previously lost to fraud.
“If you think you have been a victim of this fraud or any other, you should report it to Action Fraud and follow the advice on the Action Fraud website, which offers straight-forward and impartial advice to help people spot scams and protect themselves against fraud. We would urge those that have unfortunately been defrauded to be aware of the risk of falling victim to recovery fraud.”