Cybersecurity News that Matters

Cybersecurity News that Matters

Intelligent crime investigator warns of cryptocurrency fraud

Choi Jae-hwang, Senior Inspector of Intelligent Crime Investigation at the Incheon Jungbu Police. Photo provided by Choi Jae-hwang. Image designed by Areum Hwang, The Readable

by Minkyung Shin

Jun. 11, 2024
9:09 PM GMT+9

On February 19, an individual arrived in the South Korean city of Incheon with a large sum of cash, hoping to purchase Tether, a digital currency, at a discounted rate. After a brief introduction, the bag of money was taken into a van where several people were waiting to exchange their cryptocurrencies for cash. The amount the victim brought totaled nearly $720,000 (1 billion won).

However, it didn’t take long for the van to speed off after abandoning the victim, who had been pushed out of the vehicle. The scammers did not possess any of the Tether they had claimed to have, according to the Incheon Jungbu Police, who arrested the criminals the day after the crime had been committed.

The tactic was simple. The gang of six criminals scouted potential targets in a chat room they created on the messaging app Telegram. They lured victims by promising to sell cryptocurrencies at a price significantly lower than the market rate.

In an interview with The Readable at the police station on June 7, Choi Jae-hwang, Senior Inspector of Intelligent Crime Investigation, warned citizens about similar frauds that have become increasingly common in recent years. According to the latest statistics released by the Korean National Police Agency (KNPA) last year, cryptocurrency scam losses in South Korea totaled approximately $38 billion (5.3 trillion won) from 2018 to 2022.

Including the incident previously described, Choi has handled a total of 462 cases of cybercrime, such as investment scams, cryptocurrency fraud, and voice phishing. Over the past two years, Choi’s team has been recognized as the best investigation team of the Incheon Metropolitan Police Agency.

Choi Jae-hwang, Senior Inspector of Intelligent Crime Investigation at the Incheon Jungbu Police. Photo provided by Choi Jae-hwang

Choi believes that conducting proactive investigations has been a major factor in achieving this recognition. “We do not limit our investigations to reported cases. Our team actively searches for criminals,” said Choi.

Additionally, last April, the police officer uncovered a $520,000 (710 million won) cryptocurrency scam targeting individuals who had already fallen victim to cyber scams. The scammers created fake cryptocurrency programs and enticed potential victims to invest money. Moreover, the malicious programs were used to commit additional crimes, including voice phishing and drug trafficking.

The officer stated that he could disclose no further details of these incidents as both are still under investigation.

Choi emphasized that tracking money is crucial to uncovering the kingpin in cryptocurrency scam investigations. “Scammers often set up a fake owner of a criminal business to avoid detection,” said Choi. “We need to trace the movement of cryptocurrencies to identify the masterminds behind the crimes and assess the full extent of the damage being caused.”

To effectively handle an intelligent crime case, it is very important to swiftly obtain evidence, said the officer. This involves securing the scammer’s phones and computers, as well as seizing their bank accounts. Delays can lead to the destruction of evidence, giving criminals the advantage of making false statements.

Choi shared an important tip on how people should respond to the escalating cybercrime. “It’s always necessary to verify the existence of companies through face-to-face money transactions,” said Choi. “Do not trust companies that claim to make you money. Record all phone calls during non-face-to-face transactions to secure evidence.”


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  • Minkyung Shin

    Minkyung Shin serves as a reporting intern for The Readable, where she has channeled her passion for cybersecurity news. Her journey began at Dankook University in Korea, where she pursued studies in...

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