US and South Korea team up to reimburse victims of cryptocurrency phishing scam

US and South Korea investigators have jointly detained three persons suspected of running an online cryptocurrency phishing scam in 2017.
140M won ($118K) of the 900M won stolen has been recovered and paid back to some of the victims as restitution.

Criminal investigative agencies of the US and South Korea have teamed up to crack a cryptocurrency phishing scam orchestrated in 2017. Other than nabbing the perpetrators, the pair are also helping victims recover their losses, prosecutors in South Korea’s capital Seoul reported on Thursday.

So far, South Korea’s Supreme Prosecutors Office (SPO) has arrested two of its citizens suspected of cryptocurrency cyber fraud. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) chipped in by providing certain intelligence in 2018. This helped SPO investigators uncover the identity of one of the suspects said to be Japanese.

Thereafter, the pair joined efforts to seize cryptocurrency from one of the Korean suspects. So far, the recovered amount stands at 140 million won ($118,000) – all of which has been used to recompense some of the fraud victims.

US and South Korea take down cryptocurrency phishing scam

The saga took place in the seven months starting June 2017, when a US-based cryptocurrency phishing site claiming relations to Ripple ran. Persons duped into giving up their details on the website totaled 61. Of this, 24 were from South Korea and 37 from Japan. Cumulatively, the victims lost 900 million won.

The three suspects in custody stand accused of hacking IDs and passwords, and of conducting cryptocurrency theft in millions. Their arrests were made possible after the FBI shared intelligence to the SPO, which in turn instructed the Seoul Easter District Prosecutors Office to launch an investigation. The two Korean suspects were sentenced to two and a half years, and one year in prison suspended for two years, respectively.

“Crypto scams are difficult to track down”

Even though the perpetrators are now in custody, recovering the cryptocurrency has taken longer than expected. It was not until March 2019, that the FBI found meaningful information – one of the Korean scammers had hidden cryptocurrency in a US-based exchange. The FBI managed to freeze and confiscate the said assets. It then contacted the SPO with a list of 10 persons presumed to be victims of the fraud. By the end of November 2021, the SPO has completed the payment of 140 million won in restitution to eight of the victims.

Currently, authorities in the US are working on reimbursing the victims from Japan. An official from the SPO said;

Cryptocurrency scams are difficult to track down. This is the first time that the prosecution has successfully carried out the whole process of investigation and damage recovery through international cooperation,

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