Gold and bitcoins worth of hundreds of thousands of euros are the spoils of an elaborate online fraud discovered by the postal police in Liguria, Italy.
Bitcoin Scam Artist Impersonated Swiss Crypto Firm
Local sources reported that the Italian authorities recently arrested a Genoa-based computer expert who entangled his victims by exploiting encrypted communication channels and false identities found on the darknet.
The swindler allegedly promised victims a secure investment in bitcoin via gold and cash deposits. He passed himself off as a market representative of a reputable crypto investment firm based out of Switzerland. He used Telegram's encrypted communication services to contact his victims.
The hacker also used the platform to supply victims with stolen corporate identities to earn their trust.
It all ended when the impersonated Swiss company took notice and reported the matter to the district attorney. The prosecutor entrusted the case to the local cyber police cell, which traced the hacker after months of cyber-stalking, interception, and computer analysis. The authorities eventually located the hacker in one of the Sanremo's luxurious hotels, where he was living under a pseudonym.
Interestingly, the police caught him when he was withdrawing a package containing gold sent by one of his last victims. They also seized 58 bitcoins, which equals €200,000 ($230,000) at press time, and 2 kilograms of gold, in total worth around €270,000 ($300,000).
Scammer Exploits Italy's Economic Crisis
The incident follows Italy's year-long economic degradation, becoming the only European nation that slipped into a recession zone. The country's historical GDP performance shows that it is way behind even the comparatively weaker Eastern European nations, including Latvia, Slovakia, and Lithuania. Atop that, the country is falling behind 18 countries in the currency zone thanks to massive debt, sluggish growth, and increasing unemployment.
Business Insider reported in May that Italian investors were looking to cryptocurrencies to protect themselves from Italy's political and economic crisis. With the situation not offering any hopeful conclusion in the near-term, digital currencies seemingly provide an easy way out. At the same time, scammers such as the Genoan hacker are using the opportunity to dupe would-be bitcoin buyers.
If proven guilty, the hacker could face up to 10 years in jail, as well as a hefty fine.