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String of Cryptocurrency Crimes raises concerns amongst investors

String of Cryptocurrency Crimes raises concerns amongst investors

Crypto Market

Lanseria, South Africa:

A cryptocurrency trader has reportedly been kidnapped, drugged and tortured, in an effort to acquire the passwords of his crypto wallets in Lanseria, South Africa. The man, referred to by the nickname Andrew, was acquainted with an individual who showed interest in cryptocurrencies through Facebook, who invited Andrew to “his residence” to present about cryptocurrencies.

As soon as Andrew entered the residence, he was struck from behind and left unconscious by putting a drug-soaked cloth on his face. When he woke up, he found himself naked and was beaten and tortured by 3 men and 2 women, who were questioning him about his crypto wallet credentials. The trader said that he tried his best to stay strong and refrain from giving the kidnappers the information they were requesting, however, he was forced to give up and revealed the password to his accounts when they threatened to use a hot iron rod to kill him.

Coinounce reports that the kidnappers successfully transferred $58,500 in Bitcoin to their Bitcoin address and $7,300 to their bank account, while also taking off with the victim’s iPhones and the $220 cash he brought with him. Andrew was found on the road by police who rushed him to the hospital, where he’s being treated for wounds and burns all over his body. The hunt for the kidnappers has already commenced as per the authorities, who are going about the operation based on the information provided by the victim.

Ukraine:

Local authorities have successfully apprehended the kidnappers of a wealthy Bitcoin miner in Ukraine. Bitsonline reported that the Ukrainian authorities have managed to nab the criminals just a couple of days after the kidnapping.

As per the official Case File submitted by the Podolsky District prosecutor’s office, the criminals hid in a bush at the victim’s home while waiting for him to arrive. As soon as he reached home, he was ambushed and taken to a forest located on the outskirts of the town by a car, where they demanded that he surrender the key to his apartment and information related to his crypto savings.

The victim handed over the key to his apartment and furthermore, the specific location of his cryptocurrency funds was also forced out of him. He was released by the criminals after about $50,000 was stolen from him. The investigation based on the victim’s account led the local authorities to arrest two brothers aged 30 and 34 as the suspects soon after. The brothers are charged with planning an assault with the intention to rob and breaking and entering into the victim’s property, which leaves them facing a maximum of 15 years in prison and asset confiscation, according to the local law.

This incident is not the first of its kind, Russian IT and blockchain specialist Pavel Lerner was kidnapped by a group of men while walking around the streets in Kyiv last year. Lerner was released only after $2 million ransom was paid by his relatives in Bitcoin. In his report to the local police, he stated that he was kidnapped by government agents.

A New Threat

This incident adds to the growing list of physical Crimes leading up to crypto curated by Satoshi.info creator Jameson Lopp.  Lopp’s list of crypto-related physical robberies released on GitHub includes attacks targeting crypto infrastructures such as Bitcoin ATMs or mining hardware, but the rise in attacks targeting cryptocurrency owners in which victims are kidnapped or extorted for crypto assets is an eye-opener.

The criminals target high net worth individuals within the cryptocurrency scene, and also seem to prefer traders operating via the highly popular LocalBitcoins platform, which facilitates face-to-face cryptocurrency trades.

“This is now becoming more pervasive and touching more law enforcement divisions that deal with organized crime and violent crime on a local level,” said Jonathan Levin, the founder of Chainalysis. The company, which specializes in tracking criminal transactions on the blockchain has worked with several law enforcement agencies on virtual currency crimes.

Hopefully, the recent incidents and the list created by a victim of a similar crime aiming to create public awareness about the matter will encourage crypto investors or enthusiasts to stay safe and vigilant.

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