Australian regulator trials auto take-down of crypto scam sites


Cybersecurity specialists have welcomed a new trial by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to automatically take down scam websites. The trial saw dozens of scam sites, including crypto scams, knocked offline after more than 300 were reported.

The ACCC reported that Australians had lost $113 million in cryptocurrency scams last year. The new trial will be in partnership with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and will focus on efficiently removing scam websites once they have been reported to Australian regulators to protect potential investors from falling victim to crypto fraud.

The ACCC is using a countermeasures service from the United Kingdom-based Netcraft, which has been providing a similar service for the past four years to the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre.

According to an IT News report, sites already taken down include “phishing sites impersonating Australian businesses and government authorities,” along with “puppy scams, shoe scams, cryptocurrency investment scams and tech support scams.”

Ken Gamble, executive chairman of private intelligence firm IFW Global, praised the development. He told Cointelegraph this is “the best news he has heard,” as he had “seen the damage these sites made by sophisticated fraudsters have done using state of the art digital marketing techniques:”

“These crypto scam websites are unregulated, organized by criminal groups, many residing in Eastern Europe, who operate call centers, taking millions from mums and dads across the world every day.”

Gamble said that Australian government agencies also need to be open to collaborating with the private sector to see real success.

“We need law enforcement involved and collaborate with different countries […] many of these major cryptocurrency exchanges aren’t helpful with fraud investigations, making our investigations a lot harder than necessary.”

Researchers and romantics beware

Gamble said that individuals researching cryptocurrency are often targeted with Facebook advertisements “luring them in” with “Hollywood style professional videos,” convincing them how easy it is to make money:

“If somebody is wanting to invest $10,000 into cryptocurrency, they should spend $1,000 doing due diligence checks to ensure it is a legitimate platform […] if it turns out to be a scam, it will be the best $1,000 they will have ever spent.”

He said those investing in cryptocurrency should do their own due diligence as many websites clone bigger companies to scam potential investors. He said potential investors at a bare minimum should “do checks to make sure the platform is regulated, with all the correct financial license numbers.”

A representative from Cyber Trace, a team of private investigators specializing in cryptocurrency fraud, told the Cointelegraph that “romance baiting” is the most common cryptocurrency scam.

This involves victims talking to a romantic interest online who helps them sign up to a major cryptocurrency exchange after telling the victim they have made “great returns on investment.”

The fraudster will then ask the victim to send “a small amount of up to $200” to their platform, where “they will fiddle around the numbers on their end to show the victim they have already made a profit, offering them to withdraw this amount to gain their trust.”

Once the victim sees how easy it is to make a profit and withdraw their funds, they begin to invest “more and more… and don’t get much out after that point.”