Would you ever consider buying a car online, without seeing it in person? It doesn't sound like a great idea, especially since you're supposed to have used vehicles checked out by your mechanic before purchasing.
You'd probably be surprised at how many people actually do it. That's because people are always looking for great deals and will scour the internet to find them.
Well, to no one's surprise, a bunch of buyers have been ripped off lately. But there's good news. Some of the crooks behind the scams were just taken down.
U.S. officials help take down organized crime ring
The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced last week that it helped dismantle an online organized crime ring operating out of Romania. Thousands of U.S. victims had millions of dollars stolen by the crooks through online frauds.
Here's how the scam worked: Products were being listed for sale on sites like eBay and Craigslist, most of which were vehicles. The problem is, the items up for sale didn't actually exist.
According to court documents, criminals based in Romania would convince Americans to send money to complete the purchase. To make matters more sickening, many of the listed items came with a made-up story intended to pull on your heartstrings. Some listings claimed the item was being sold by a member of the military who really needed the money before being deployed overseas.
Many times, the crooks went as far as to steal the identities of Americans to help pull the scams off. Once victims were convinced to send payment, the scam turned into a complicated money-laundering scheme.
People in the U.S. working with the crime ring would accept payment from the victims. Then they would convert the funds into cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin, and transfer it to foreign-based associates.
Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said, "The defendants allegedly orchestrated a highly organized and sophisticated scheme to steal money from unsuspecting victims in America and then launder their funds using cryptocurrency.
"As the charges and arrests announced today demonstrate, the Criminal Division and our law enforcement partners will vigorously pursue cybercriminals who defraud the American public, regardless of where those criminals may reside."
A total of 20 people, including 16 foreign nationals, have been charged for their roles so far. Each defendant faces up to 20 years in prison with a fine of $250,000.
The existence of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum could make international crimes like these more prevalent in the future. We'll have to keep our eye out for more organized crimes like this.
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