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Daily fraud update: 29th January

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Police in Russia open criminal investigation against alleged forex scammers

The Russian police force has announced it will investigate a group of people which it accuses of being foreign exchange scammers running an illicit web-based trading service.

According to a statement from the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, a number of alleged scammers have been taken into custody on suspicion of false representation – and also fraud.

It is believed that 40 flats were raided as part of the move, as well as a double-figure number of workplaces.

A range of documents and technology items were also taken away for examination.

In a statement, the Ministry said that the allegedly fake forex brokers – who supposedly impersonated the brokerage firm Larson & Holtz – had scammed a figure over 21m Russian rubles.

This is a figure is equivalent to around £250,000 and around $335,000.

“Fraud on an especially large scale. According to preliminary estimates, the damage from the illegal activities of pseudo-brokers exceeded 21 million rubles”, said Irina Volk, from the Ministry.

Larson & Holtz is based outside of Russia but is not authorised by the relevant authorities in Russia to operate there.   

So far, names of those taken into custody have not been released.

Research into OneCoin reveal further possible lies

The beleaguered crypto scheme OneCoin has been hit with more accusations of lies and fraud.

OneCoin, which has hit the headlines for its alleged high-value Ponzi scheme and for its missing founder and leader, has now been accused of using websites such as Quora and TrustPilot to post positive reviews.

According to the Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) think tank at the US-based AtlanticCouncil, the firm engaged in what has been described as an “astroturfing campaign”.

In just one month, the researchers claim, hundreds of top-rated reviews for the firm were posted on TrustPilot.

“Of the 579 reviews for OneCoin on the site, 90 percent were positive. Of the five star ratings, about 400 were published within the span of a single month”, the post states.

This pertains to October 2019.

Overall, however, the researchers concluded that it was not possible to pin the blame for the posts directly on those behind OneCoin.

It was also apparently not possible to determine whether the reviews were the consequence of automation or whether they had been specifically created by a person.

“While there was no direct evidence tying these inauthentic profiles and reviews to OneCoin employees or evidence of automated activity on either platform, the profiles and favorable reviews nonetheless served to boost trust for the OneCoin brand as it faced a multibillion-dollar scandal”, the report said.

Ruja Ignatovaa, who went missing as the scandal broke, has still not been found.

Known as the “Crypto Queen”, she has now become the subject of many news articles and other media investigations into her and her firm.