A little over one year after countless cryptocurrency investors fell victim to the crypto scam that used the name of the popular Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) show to trick people into investing in SQUID token, a cryptocurrency that, in fact, had no connection to the show.
Interestingly, a journalist’s investigation has delivered new evidence as to the whereabouts of the scam’s originators. As it happens, the debut of the famous Korean Netflix show Squid Game in 2021 proved a perfect opportunity for scammers to create an efficient cryptocurrency scam that has cost its victims an aggregated $16 million in financial loss.
The crypto scammers launched a token eponymous with the popular show with an aim to boost its price and sell as much as possible, with such a success that even major publications like the BBC, CNBC, and Yahoo, took notice, as Finbold sent out a warning to traders.
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Thirty days later, they disappeared with millions, but investigative technology journalist Janhoi McGregor and tech expert Ciaran O’Connor decided to find the identity of the SQUID scammer, reporting the results of their investigation in a podcast series ‘Squid Scam: Chasing the NFT Con Artists.’
In the podcast, McGregor revealed that a discussion in a victims’ Telegram chatroom had given him the first suspects in the case, as he received a video of the rug pull supposedly happening live on a computer monitor, watermarked with what appears to be the name of one of the suspects, accompanied by a message:
“Thanks for making me rich.”
Checking the metadata, O’Connor confirmed that the video was genuine, recorded indeed at the time the rug pull was taking place. Later on, McGregor and O’Connor learned that the Squid Scam authors had carried out a smaller, almost identical, scam a few weeks earlier to ‘test the waters’ leading to more clues.
In the meantime, an alleged legal firm was charging people money through their website, promising to sue the Squid scammers but disappearing with their money, indicating that those scammers could be the same as the rug pull people.
Meanwhile, a Reddit profile, created four days before the rug pull and still active ten days after it, was urging the victims of the rug pull to join the supposed legal action advertised on the website.
Name comes up
To carry out this fraud, the scammer used a domain name company that had no idea its services were being used for these purposes. Among the information handed over by the domain name company, more clues appeared, including two email addresses, an IP address, two telephone numbers, an actual physical address, and even a name.
Further investigation connected this person with scams dating back to 2013. Trying to draw more information, the investigators sent a message to one of the email addresses that came up with a name. The recipient immediately opened the email, revealing a location in Hong Kong with 86% certainty.
At the same time, the suspect’s name was connected to the technology company established in April 2021 in Guangdong province in South China, the application for the dissolution of which was filed only six days after the investigators sent the phishing email to the rug pull scam suspect.
Confronting the scammer
Narrowing down the address to the specific office block, McGregor decided to invite a local reporter to join in on the investigation, upon which she scoped out the building where the connected company was registered, discovering the movements and a potential address of the suspect in Hong Kong.
The investigators decided to go to Hong Kong to try and get face-to-face with the scammer. Unfortunately, as they arrived at the location, they found no one. A security guard revealed that the police had come to the apartment in connection with the scam about six months before.
This was enough proof for McGregor that he was on the right track but was worried about his safety. The local reporter called the number connected with the company registered in Guangdong, but the person who answered denied everything.
When they called again, the number was disconnected, which indicated they were indeed earlier talking to the person connected to the scam, and who was now aware that they were on their tail. Ultimately, McGregor was forced to report his findings and leave the rest of the investigation to the police.