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Six people have been arrested as part of an investigation into the theft of more than £22million worth of cryptocurrency from an estimated four thousand-plus victims worldwide, led by the South West Regional Cyber Crime Unit (SW RCCU) and the police in the Netherlands.
The five men and one woman were arrested in simultaneous warrants at 7am this morning (Tuesday, June 25) at their homes in Charlcombe and Lower Weston in Bath, Staverton in Wiltshire, and Amsterdam and Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
The on-going investigation relates to ‘typosquatting’, where a well-known online cryptocurrency exchange is ‘spoofed’ – or recreated to imitate the genuine site – to gain access to victims’ bitcoin wallets, stealing their funds and login details.
Detective Inspector Louise Boyce from the SW RCCU said: “Today’s warrants were the result of 14 months of investigation by my team, closely assisted by colleagues in Europol, Eurojust, the Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT) and the National Crime Agency (NCA).
“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 4000 victims in at least 12 countries. We expect that number to grow.
“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. Devon and Cornwall and the Metropolitan Police also provided vital help in the form of their two cyber dogs, who played key roles in searching suspects’ homes.”
All three South West-based men were arrested on suspicion of committing computer misuse and money laundering offences.
The suspects in the Netherlands were arrested on suspicion of money laundering.
The devices and equipment seized will now be examined by the SW RCCU.
Anyone who suspects they have been a victim of cryptocurrency theft should contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or online at https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/