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Russian fraud group Impulse Team has amassed a staggering $5 million by operating a comprehensive network of counterfeit cryptocurrency exchanges, as revealed by IT firm Trend Micro’s analysts who conducted an in-depth investigation into the criminals’ activities.
Experts have determined that the fraudsters initiated the Impulse Project scam campaign in 2021. Since then, unidentified individuals have established an extensive network of sham crypto exchanges, deceptive cryptocurrency websites, and even launched social media marketing campaigns on platforms like TikTok and Mastodon to deceive unsuspecting victims.
The exact scale of the campaign remains uncertain, but Trend Micro believes that Impulse Project has ensnared thousands of investors worldwide. The project’s broad reach can be attributed to its subscription model. Trend Micro discovered that the perpetrators distributed counterfeit exchange templates through accomplices on Russian-language hacker forums.
Uncovering a Network of Fake Crypto Exchanges and Elusive Culprits
In order to obtain the source code from these accomplices, interested parties had to contact the scheme’s developers via Telegram, provide information about their experience in the field, and pay a commission. The accomplices were also responsible for registering domain names, making it challenging to identify the main culprits.
Trend Micro analysts have successfully uncovered an entire network of fake cryptocurrency exchanges, although the overall magnitude of the scheme remains unclear. As of now, the fraudulent exchanges include harbytrade[.]com, jarbytrade[.]com, karbytrade[.]com, narbytrade[.]com, parbytrade[.]com, and sarbytrade[.]com.
Furthermore, analysts have discovered that an individual operating under the email address kmerrell@rambler[.]ru created a counterfeit version of a website that faithfully replicated a legitimate fraud-checking platform, alongside the fake crypto exchanges. Unlike the authentic website, the fraudulent copy reassured visitors about the legitimacy of the counterfeit exchanges.
It remains uncertain whether the owner of the email account was a member of the Impulse Team or merely an accomplice. Since December 2022, it has been estimated that over $5 million in USDT has flowed through addresses associated with the Impulse Project. The total amount stolen by the fraudsters since 2021 remains unknown.