More than 700 potential UK victims have been identified, among thousands worldwide targeted by a boiler room fraud that was run from Romania, the National Crime Agency (NCA) has found.
NCA investigators believe the fraud, primarily offering false investments, was being carried out on a mass scale before it was closed down in September 2022.
Three Romanian nationals were detained during a series of searches by NCA investigators and Romanian police officers at apartments in north Bucharest.
Since September, work has been underway to identify victims of the fraud. So far, a potential 700 plus UK victims have been identified and a further 4,000 overseas. While work continues to identify more of the victims, the NCA is keen that potential victims come forward so that appropriate advice and support can be provided.
Suzanne Foster, branch commander of NCA’s complex financial crime team, said: “The impact of this fraud on victims, both financially and psychologically, is significant. Losses are already over £1m ($1.2m, €1.13m). This figure will grow as we identify more victims.
“Tackling fraud is a priority for the NCA. Our global reach and strong relationships with international partners means we can target fraudsters wherever they are in the world. If you think you may have been a victim of this fraud, please be assured that there is support available and you can make a report to Action Fraud.”
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 (FCA) 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.
The apartments raided were rented solely for the purpose of running call-centres where the callers scoped out targets, and reinitiated contact with victims already defrauded through a separate investment scheme.
Officers seized material that indicated a script was followed to make calls to victims and false referrals to the ‘FCA Crypto Department’.
High value crypto currency wallets were identified but on examination were found to be false and suspected to have been used to demonstrate to victims that recovered funds were available to repay their initial investment losses.