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5 cryptocurrency scammers charged over $3 million fraud — and more than 100 got sucked in

Sharon Masige
  • Queensland Police has charged five Gold Coast residents with fraud and money laundering after they were found to have conducted a cryptocurrency-related scam.
  • The scam saw more than 100 Australians tricked into investing in a fake cryptocurrency business with non-existent profits.
  • Investment scams cause the highest financial losses to Australians, coming to a combined $86 million in 2018, according to the consumer watchdog ACCC.

Five Queenslanders have been charged with fraud and money laundering after police caught them conducting a cryptocurrency scam.

Detectives from the Queensland Police's Financial and Cyber Crime Group investigated an alleged criminal syndicate which handled several businesses selling cryptocurrency investments on the Gold Coast between 2017 and May 2019.

More than 100 Australians were tricked into thinking their investments of more than $2.7 million generated profits that never actually existed, the cops allege.

In the scam, the victims were given the chance to invest in Exmount Holdings Group, a seemingly legitimate company complete with a website, call centre and sales staff, according to a statement from the police. Other companies tied to the scam were the official-sounding "Quid Pro Quo Foundation", "The Atlas Group" and "AFG Associates Pty Ltd".

The victims were offered a trial investment which promised to give them significant returns once they invested more funds. They were also given log in details for the website so they could watch their initial investment grow during the trial period.

But the investments started looking fishy when the victims realised they couldn't withdraw their funds. Worse yet — they couldn't even contact the company with their issue.

“Their money had gone and any attempt they made to contact one of the companies or their staff was unsuccessful,” Detective Superintendent Terry Lawrence said in the statement.

Detectives conducted several search warrants and later charged three men aged 56, 44 and 33 and two women aged 28 and 21 from the Gold Coast with fraud and money laundering.

They are set to appear before the Southport Magistrates Court in separate cases on 9 August, 22 August and 5 November.

While the five have been charged, Queensland Police is still continuing its investigations to find anyone else who may have fallen victim to the same.

“We ask the community to remain resilient against this type of offending. Always be wary of and maintain control of your finances," Lawrence said.

In 2018, Australians lost a combined $489.7 million to scams, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. This only takes into account scams reported to Scamwatch, ACORN and other government agencies.

The nearly $500 million lost to scams is $149 million more than in 2017, according to ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard, AAP reported. Rickard added that the total financial losses could be more because of the victims being afraid to report that they have been scammed.

So if you're looking to make it big with cryptocurrency, maybe check if the company you're investing in is legit first.