South Korean Police Shut Down ‘Gangsters’ $32m Crypto Scam Ring’

Tim Alper
Last updated: | 2 min read
A selection of chat app icons on a smartphone screen.
Source: Robert/Adobe

South Korean police say they have swooped on a $32 million chat app-based crypto scam ring that they say was being run by a network of “gangsters.”

Per Chosun Ilbo, Busan Metropolitan Police, the group comprised nine groups of “violent gangsters” who operated bogus “crypto reading room” sites on chat app platforms.

Officers said they had arrested eight individuals suspected of operating the “reading rooms,” as well as 79 “accomplices.”

Police said that the gang convinced 572 people “nationwide” to part with their money.

A police spokesperson said the group had “opened and operated” bogus online crypto sites.

Members then allegedly “recruited investors, managed bank accounts, and laundered money.”

Police said the gangs’ members were all young; in the “millennial and Gen Z” age groups.

In a series of nationwide raids, officers seized assets including motor vehicles, cash, and other items worth a combined $1.9 million.

A luxury car seized by police offers in Busan as part of an investigation in into crypto-related crime.
A luxury car seized by police offers in Busan as part of the raids. (Source: Busan Metropolitan Police)

Scammers Preying on South Korean Chat App Users?

Crypto-themed “reading rooms” are commonplace in South Korea, particularly on platforms such as KakaoTalk.

Many of these group chats and channels are above-board, comprising bona fide crypto traders.

But others appear to have become a breeding ground for opportunistic crypto scammers. has seen several recent examples of Kakao chat rooms where members appear to promote suspicious-looking coins and trading platforms.

Some promote dubious-looking crypto mining “investment” programs that appear to promise “guaranteed profits.”

According to the police, the “gangsters” launched their operations in February 2022, posing variously as “investment experts.”

Officers said they “falsely claimed” that investors would “earn big profits by investing in crypto, unlisted stocks, gold, and overseas futures.”

The gang allegedly told potential victims that their stakes were “guaranteed.” They also allegedly said that profits would be forthcoming.

Officers said that they believed the gangsters had paid darkweb vendors to provide them with some would-be victims’ data.

This helped them target victims with personalized text messages and emails, police spokespeople explained.

Elsewhere in the nation, the trial of a suspected altcoin fraudster began earlier this month in Gwangju.

Prosecutors have accused an individual of duping over a dozen investors out of $2.1 million.

However, authorities in Busan are hopeful of launching the world’s first city-run “digital assets” exchange in early 2024.