Authorities in Germany, Austria, Serbia, and Bulgaria have launched joint-scale operations to counteract a large binary options fraud, which is estimated to have cost victims nearly €80 million.
According to a report from btv, the largest TV outfit in Bulgaria, three Bulgarians and one German national have been detained in Bulgaria. Two of the detainees are among the alleged leaders of the group, the report said.
A further five people connected to the fraud have been detained in Serbia, and more than 30 bank accounts have been examined, with cash seized. In Germany, a bank account with more than €2.5 million has been blocked.
The investigation into the large-scale binary options scam, which was launched almost a year ago, is being led by the Prosecutor General’s Office in the German city of Bamberg, media reports from Bulgaria said.
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Aiding the investigation is an Austrian Central Prosecutor’s Office team for combating economic crime and corruption, and Europol and Eurojust, the EU Criminal Justice Cooperation Agency, are supporting the exchange of information between authorities.
Investigators estimate that the damage caused by the fraud, which has affected thousands of citizens in Europe, is close to €80 million, as a large portion of the victims of the scam have not yet filed a complaint.
How the binary options scam worked
So how does the scam work? According to btv, members of the investment fraud reached out to victims via emails, asking them to register on an unlicensed platform for binary options trading and other financial instruments. To join the platform, users had to pay an initial €250 fee.
For investors who responded straight away, they were targeted by “agents” and “personal brokers” based in “call centres” mainly in Belgrade and Sofia. Furthermore, each investor was provided with an application which led them to a fake platform to track their money. However, the victim’s funds were actually being transferred by the fraudsters into group accounts across the world.