The Justice Department said Monday that it seized nearly $112 million worth of cryptocurrency connected to investment scams after warrants were obtained in Arizona, California and Idaho. The seizures are part of a larger effort to address confidence schemes known colloquially as “pig butchering,” in which scammers develop long-term relationships with victims online before convincing them to invest in fraudulent cryptocurrency trading platforms. The department did not name any specific people, companies, or platforms connected to the seized funds but said the FBI’s office in Phoenix is still investigating the case. The funds were in six digital currency accounts, the DOJ’s announcement said. The accounts were used to launder the proceeds of the confidence scams, officials said. “These particularly vicious frauds — where scammers carefully cultivate relationships with their victims over time — have devastated families and cost individuals their life savings. Now that we have seized this virtual currency, we will seek to swiftly return it to victims,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite. “In addition to our tireless efforts to disrupt these schemes, we must also work to raise public awareness and help inform potential victims: be wary of people you meet online; seriously question investment advice, especially about cryptocurrency, from people you have not met in person; and remember, investments that seem too good to be true, usually are.” The FBI said last year that pig butchering schemes and other cryptocurrency fraud accounted for $2.57 billion worth of losses for 2022, a 183% increase from 2021. The pig butchering schemes take a variety of forms, with some starting through purported romantic entanglements and others presented as sound business opportunities. Some scammers spend months speaking with victims before floating potential investments. Victims are typically directed to platforms that look legitimate but are controlled by attackers. Some scams have even allowed victims to take money out after investing to get them to put more money on the platform.
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