The first rule of Crypto Club
In the past year, Sweden's cryptocurrency community has experienced a series of targeted and violent attacks, as detailed by Erica Wall, a crypto researcher and investor. These incidents were notable for their strategic execution and the significant harm inflicted.
One such attack this week involved a home invasion targeting a middle-aged couple, during which the assailants inflicted significant injuries and stole Bitcoin. The severity of the assault led to one victim being airlifted to hospital.
In an earlier incident, as reported by Wall, a notable Swedish Bitcoin enthusiast was aggressively attacked in their home. Even after handing over a substantial amount of cryptocurrency, the victim faced prolonged physical assault. This traumatic experience led the victim to largely retreat from public life, highlighting the severe personal and psychological consequences of such targeted violence.
Wall noted that the key factor linking the victims was a public show of support for crypto in the days before the attack, such as the live-streaming of a Bitcoin-focused podcast. This pattern suggests the deliberate selection of victims based on their public profiles and perceived association with valuable digital assets.
Unfortunately, due to Sweden's 'Principle of Public Access to Information' or 'Offentlighetsprincipen', anybody can freely search for a person's residential address (and tax records), and 'pay them a visit'. Initially established in 1766 to promote government transparency, in the era of digital information the legislation has unintentionally made it easier for criminals to access and misuse personal data, especially targeting individuals involved in the cryptocurrency sector.
Rise in Bitcoin-Related Fraud in Sweden
Sweden's Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA) has reported a significant rise in sophisticated investment fraud schemes targeting Bitcoin users, with over 1,200 firms involved in such scams in just the third quarter of 2023. These scams often involved deceptive lures, including a notable scheme featuring a nonexistent entity called the "CFDS Cryptocurrency Platform," where victims were tricked into paying fees for access to alleged Bitcoin holdings.
From January to March 2023, the FSA received numerous complaints about fraudsters claiming to work at various authorities, including the FSA itself. The criminals employed three primary strategies: offering assistance in recovering money lost in previous scams for a fee, asking consumers to identify themselves using Bank ID to gain access to their bank accounts, and claiming that a fee was required for other fabricated reasons. Targeting individuals who had previously lost substantial amounts of money, the scammers convinced their victims to pay advance fees to recover their losses.
The FSA warned about the persistence of fraudsters contacting consumers under the guise of well-known companies like Binance or Blockchain by using the company's name in email addresses or copying logos and contact information to appear legitimate.
Additionally, the FSA issued warnings about entities like Alfabtc and RXK Capital, which offered trading in contracts for difference (CFDs) linked to cryptocurrencies but were not authorized to do so by the FSA. These companies often misled consumers about their unauthorized status and changed their names and websites to evade detection.
The FSA regularly publishes information on ongoing frauds and common-sense methods to help consumers avoid falling victim to investment fraud. They advise skepticism towards anyone offering investment opportunities through social media, telephone or email, caution when filling in digital identification forms, and verifying company authorization with the FSA. Avoiding companies on the FSA's Warning List is also recommended.