Most people think of cryptocurrency-related heists as incidents where crafty hackers compromise computers, steal victims’ Bitcoin wallet keys and transfer the funds away. This misconception is well-founded and is indeed exactly how many tech-savvy crooks have masterminded the most notorious theft campaigns in this domain. However, some malefactors go the old school route and coerce owners into parting with their digital cash literally at gunpoint. This tactic isn’t too common so far, but it is gearing up for a rise.
$1.8 million Worth of Ether Stolen via Armed Robbery
A 35-year-old individual named Louis Meza robbed an acquaintance of about $1.8 million in ether. This incident took place in New York in November 2017. Meza arranged to meet the would-be victim outdoors and ordered a car service for him after the conversation.
When the unsuspecting person was on his way home, the crook’s armed accomplice who was hiding in the minivan took away his wallet, cell phone and keys to his apartment.
After the felons got hold of the keys, Meza was able to enter the victim’s home and steal hardware containing his digital wallet. From there, he was quickly able to transfer the whopping amount to his account. Fortunately, the targeted person wasn’t injured in the upshot of this mishap. The gang leader was later chased down and arrested for kidnapping, robbery, and computer tampering.
Crooks Robbed Russian Couple of $100,000 in Bitcoin.
Russian nationals Maxin Lasouka and Anna Nikulina fell victim to a Bitcoin-related armed robbery in Phuket province, Thailand.
In January 2018, a group of foreigners – most likely Russians as well – violently broke into the couple’s place in Rawai village, stole their passports, several laptops, a smartphone, and coerced them to submit $100,000 worth of bitcoin to a specified BTC address.
When the gangsters fled, the victims reported the incident to police despite death threats. They claimed to have seen one of the assailants in the area before, so the perpetrators must have been watching the couple for a while and thus figured out that they possessed cryptocurrency. Based on GPS signal from the stolen phone, the police determined that the threat actors ended up in Malaysia shortly after the incident.
Heist Targeting Cryptocurrency Exchange in Canada
Another attempted theft of virtual funds took place in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, in January 2018. Three men carrying handguns stormed into the office of Canadian Bitcoins, a local cryptocurrency exchange firm, and tried to force the employees to transfer coins to their address.
One of the company’s staffers was able to call the police. The thugs struck one employee in the head with a gun but didn’t get any bitcoin in the end. They eventually had to flee empty-handed.
The police searched the area and arrested one of the robbers, a 19-year-old man named Jimmy St-Hilaire. Two more suspects remain on the loose.
Businessman Kidnapped and Robbed in New Delhi
The fact that bitcoin isn’t legal tender in India gave rise to a cryptocurrency black market in the country. While interested parties can meet in person and exchange fiat for virtual coins and vice versa at appealing rates, this type of a deal implies a healthy dose of risk.
The case of a New Delhi businessman demonstrated how dangerous such transactions could get. In April 2017, a group of six people kidnapped and robbed him of Rs 3.6 million (about $55,000) worth of bitcoin.
Prior to the incident, the criminals had managed to persuade the individual into disclosing his details on localbitcoins.com, an online service providing localized Bitcoin exchange offers. A while afterward, he was contacted by a woman who allegedly wanted to sell some coins for cash at a lower price and appointed a meeting in east Delhi. When the gullible trader arrived, he was confronted by a gang who kidnapped him and stole the cash.
Some of the robbers’ phone numbers being known, the police tracked them down by locating their cell phones. The apprehended gang leader named Amandeep Singh had purportedly chosen to go the criminal route when his career of a property dealer didn’t pan out.
Cryptocurrency Exchange CEO ransomed for $1 million
For the record, Exmo Finance is a large international firm with branches in the UK, Spain, Ukraine, Thailand, India, and Russia. In late December 2017, a group of men wearing ski masks assailed the above-mentioned crypto entrepreneur in Ukraine’s capital as he was leaving the local office and dragged him into a black Mercedes-Benz. While it seemed like a classic kidnapping, the felons demanded bitcoin rather than cash.
To pressure the victim further, the bandits also fired DDoS attacks at the exchange’s networks and tried to encrypt the database with ransomware. Such actions disrupted exchange operations for several days.
Ultimately, Lerner was released after paying a ransom that amounted to a whopping $1 million worth of bitcoin.
Cybercrime and real-world felonies are starting to intersect more than ever before. This unsettling trend took root last year as the value of cryptocurrencies – Bitcoin in the first place – skyrocketed. Unfortunately, this turn of events has raised the stakes for malicious agents and incentivized them to diversify their portfolio.
Cryptocurrency traders should, therefore, exercise extreme caution and think twice before making deals in person. An enticing exchange offering a lower rate may turn out to be a red herring, so stay vigilant and more paranoid than usual in such scenarios.