Australia Charges 4 Chinese in US$100 Million Global Cyber Scam

Four Chinese nationals living in Sydney, Australia, were charged for their alleged role in a cyber enabled investment scam that swindled more than US$100 million from victims world-wide, especially in the U.S., according to a statement released by the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

AFP ArrestsFour Chinese nationals living in Sydney were charged for their alleged role in a cyber enabled investment scam. (Photo: Australian Federal Police, License)The suspects “employ a sophisticated mix of social engineering techniques, including the use of dating sites, employment sites and messaging platforms to gain the victims’ trust before mentioning investment opportunities.”

Social engineering fraud refers to scams which manipulate or trick people into giving out confidential or personal information which can then be used for criminal financial gain, Interpol said.

Once deceived, victims are directed by the attackers to both fraudulent and legitimate investment applications that deal in foreign exchange and cryptocurrency, which have been maliciously manipulated to show a false positive return on investments.

The alleged Chinese cyber criminals recruit victims to subscribe to a financial investment service, and manipulate the data provided through online trading platforms to encourage further investments, while concealing the fact that the clients’ money has actually been stolen, the news release said.

Authorities in the U.S. earlier this year warned Australian officials about links to a US-based scam. Australian Federal Police then began a parallel investigation, codenamed Operation Wickham, in cooperation with an investigation by the country’s law enforcement agencies.

Over the course of the operation, some $22.5 million was frozen in at least 24 bank accounts allegedly linked to the cyber criminals.

“A greater number of people are falling victim to these types of cyber-enabled scams every day and in some instances losing their life savings,” Detective Sergeant Salam Zreika said.

People behind these scams “have zero concern for those members of the community who may have lost their life savings or have been financially crippled,” Detective Superintendent Martin Fileman said.

According to him, “people need to take extra care to protect themselves: the old adage, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Zreika recommends people to exercise caution and refrain from investing in foreign exchange, cryptocurrency, or speculative investments “with people you’ve only ever encountered online.”

“If you are unsure, get a second opinion from a professional, in person,” she added.