From our special correspondent:
This report is from a victim of a scammer broker who then went on to be defrauded further by a 'recovery' company, so please do be aware that these cases are real and devastating to the victims.
The story on the crypto scammer GTStox:
I became a victim of a financial trade scam (whether by a brokerage company or through its associate broker) and needed help with recovery of my lost funds.
First Step: The Bait, Auto-Trading Robots
In the month of October, I read a magazine article placed in the Slovak Republic, advertising a way of better capitalising money sitting in the bank through a robot driven investment strategy on the financial markets. The article led me to the broker site GTStox (https://www.gtstox.com/) which at first glance looked trustworthy. Having entered my contact data (but failed to take a screenshot at that time) and submitted the request, I got a call from an agent in London, UK telling me that he would be my account manager ongoing. Later on he explained the type of broker trading they offered is much better than robotic driven trading since the profits could be much higher.
Step Two: Initial Deposit and the 'Safe Withdrawal' Play
The initial investment, through credit card, was €250 on November 5, 2020 (I have the evidence on my bank statement) and the testing period was one week.) If I was satisfied with my earnings, I could then raise my investment through wire transfer for an additional testing period of a further month. Then I would continue or withdraw all the funds deposited. The London Agent, besides giving assurances that we would be in contact the whole time and that I was going to have immediate access to either profits or the full amount deposited, also said he would accompany me though the withdrawal procedure.
Step Three: Further Deposits and Sniffing Around my Finances
With that assurance and others, I agreed to his terms, and wire transferred (evidence from bank statement and transfers trace through Exodus, Coinbase, GTStox) an additional €5000 for the second testing period of another month and for his phone guidance. After a week of daily phone contacts and WhatsUp communications (evidence screenshots of WhatsUp chats, phone number, his photo - whether fake or not, who knows) and explanations, training, etc.
Suddenly without showing me how to withdraw the funds he just suddenly disappeared.
Step Four: Phone Number Blocking and Escape
As I could not track him down, I contacted the Live support at the GTStox website, but this was in vain. The GTStox website was in the process of being quietly shut down, but I did not understand what was happening at the time. Since then I have had no contact or email whatsoever with the trading company, neither a replacement account manager, nor with the former account manager - everything has gone dead through any of the communication channels.
Step Five: The Trading Interface Was Fake
I can however log into their site freely, and check out the events. As I could still log in I took the initiative and experimented with the withdrawal procedure on the GTStox site, and on November 30, 2020 requested a withdrawal of as much as possible of my funds. Since then the withdrawal is still pending, and no one contacted me in the matter. So, again I contacted the Live chat explaining that I requested withdrawal of my funds, and wanted an update, but again no contact. I have received not received any kind of answer from the company (screenshot evidence on the communication). Interestingly, the trade with my funds is still ongoing and seems to be growing, however, it is a fake history I can now tell.
Step Six: Keeping Me Calm To Complete Their Escape
Further mobile calls were arriving from London, UK, but these were computer generated and were never the same number twice. A few of them are in the mobile log and have been identified, but others were impossible to track as they changed constantly.
Since then I have found several similar ads to the one that I was originally persuaded by, and I think they are placed in the CEE countries where the IP protection of browsers is weak. There is also less awareness, lower incomes, weaker police force against cyber crime and also weaker institutional base combating cyber crime.
The Story of the scavenger upon the fallen: Fake Recovery
I had realised by now that I was being scammed by a crypto scammer (by the end of November 2020) and having all the fresh traces to their licence number, off-shore address from Panama papers, everything fresh and live, (see images) I decided to search for a recovery company with the hope they really could help me.
Phase One: The Second Bite Lure
I looked through fake and non-fake ads, websites such as TRUSTPILOT and similar fake or non-fake reviews. I though that perhaps if somebody was defrauded and wanted to get help to recover what they lost quickly, these companies might actually be real. So I chose one of those "trustworthy companies" Global PayBack Ltd at the very beginning of December last year. They asked for €800 upfront for services, and then sent me a consulting contract. I immediately protested against one paragraph (I have the contract, and communication with it) that if the company did not succeed with recovery or anything else I do not get any reimbursement.
Phase Two: The Perfect Target - Hurried and Desperate
I felt that I was under serious time pressure and that my fresh leads to the scammer that might soon dry up. This hurriedness was happily used to push me to accept the terms, with the assurance by phone that the pusher named Benjamin STEIN who explained "do not worry, you are in a good hands, we are a successful company and Brian (ROSE) is a super associate and is able to handle everything." Moreover, Benjamin STEIN proposed (since he knew at that time that my investment damages of 5250€ in BTC were worth much more) that if I raised my upfront to 2000€ I would see much more recovery and that would partially come around Christmas time. These were all lies of course, misleading information being sold by the pusher associated with Global PayBack Ltd and their heartless procedures.
Phase Three: A Lesson For Every Fraud Victim
I got scammed a second time because I wanted a quick solution to my pain (unfortunately for these mobile phone based conversations I do not have recordings). By the end of December I become suspicious as nothing had happened. Another month went by and I really got suspicious by the end of January 2021 as I was not even contacted, no work plan from them, no ideas, no quick recovery.
Phase Four: Official Looking Letters From Unqualified Scammers
Then I think I emailed them later and they gave me some explanation or other and I received a kind of a dispute letter in English (a 15 minutes job even for me) to request chargeback that I had to forward to my banks that supposedly initiated payment. It was tedious work for me since in Slovak Republic banks are internationally owned but their staff is local with an inherited attitude from socialism. The banks basically do not have client support lines on their sites visibly (one can call and then explain), they do not have chargeback procedures and they do not want to do that, too (I presume because of the staff attitude, it seems this is not part of the obligation of their banking procedures).
Phase Five: You Do the Work Anyway
So I had to work out the matters for Global Payback Ltd which took two weeks. Then I decided to read the contract properly, and saw that Global Payback Ltd would not legally represent me but instead only offer consulting at the level of coaching. Of course, as i mentioned the banks did not care if they recovered anything or not. Basically, I had to send reminders to the banks to check on the case outcome. So, this first consulting service on recovery ended up with nil recovery. Even more shocking was finding out that supposedly reliable Brian was unaware that in Slovak Republic, there is no banking ombudsman. In reality the National Bank stands for such, but with the same attitude as the banks and so is no real help. So when I clarified these facts to him and knowing that one of my banks belongs to the Group of Commerzbank Germany, I told him to ask that or the German Ombudsman. His reaction was as when the devil sees a crucifix.
Phase Six: Hoping You Just Go Away and Give Up
From the below pics on the Global PayBack can be noticed that the mother company Rozenti is registered in Berlin, but having been born in a CEE country, I bet this was in East Berlin, since they would not have got registration for an untrustworthy company in the Western part of Germany where Commerzbank has a seat. Again, I had to send my story, clarifications, and description of the unhelpful results from my bank-mBank to a Polish Consumer Protection Agency (I know from my experience in Slovakia that they are not helpful and do not acknowledge any submission, moreover they do not have the legal power to oversee banking institutions, as such) and then after having waited a long period for a response, I asked GlobalPayBack what was the next step, they suggested to wait additional two weeks.
Phase Seven: Keeping You Waiting
Being a bit alert, at the time of submitting my request to the Polish Agency, I asked Global PayBack Ltd to please reveal to me their future plans on recovery if this Polish Agency went bust. They did not reveal anything as it would break confidentiality, telling me that they were working on the next steps of the recovery. By this time I had been waiting for the Polish agency to respond for almost two months, and I had a bad feeling I had been scammed yet again. Two weeks ago whilst having these bad feelings about the whole procedure, I wrote to the the Slovak Embassy in Tel Aviv and the Israeli Embassy to Slovakia to help find institutions, police, whoever can influence them towards a reimbursement, revocation of license and persecution for fraudulent behaviour (of course, I have whole mail communications as well as call recordings to prove all the above.)
Phase Eight: Powerless After Signing The Contract
Basically I found out how stupid I was signing that contract hastily, under pressure (but this is the fund recovery companies standard modus operandi, making vulnerable people sign money away) and with a possibility of increasing losses by topping the earlier loss with another 2000€. I got myself in a trap with no out situation and with all that their services at maximum they could have recovered only my basic loss without damages that I could have done myself asking the same institutions.
The Conclusion and Their Business Model
The basic problem is that the broker (GTStox) is registered to a mother company, CRABEC HOLDINGS Ltd running a trading platform GTStox which just a trading name, but if you check their site, everything looks reasonable enough. They show the mother company details for their registration and whether that entitles them to perform this activity, I don’t know. A normal person using the internet, of course, wouldn’t be likely to notice the difference. I do not know if such a trading platform or service platform needs to be registered in my own country to have authority. But the trading platforms for crypto and others apparently operate in CEE countries through false ads, since in these countries there is no financial authority really overseeing these activities and the police force does work only on paper to combat cyber crime, there is not even a site to report these activities in Slovakia as in the UK. So, please find the translation for CFD and BTC trading Scammer CFD, Scammer BTC, which I was entrapped by.
GTStox: Just A Name
As for the GTStox I do not possess a contract, but even the legitimate platforms, such as Coinbase, Bitpanda, Localbitcoin, Bitstamp do not ask you to sign a contract. You do, however, have to prove that you are a reliable person to deal with and identify yourself with driving licenses & passports etc.
These are possibly the details of who I was dealt with by the scammer brokers - Bernardo Pereira
When we try his number it just says it is switched off.
As to the bank transfer of 5250€. It was done by a MasterCard payment from OTP Bank-250€, and wire transfer from my Bank 5000€, as can be seen in the file Payment transfer.
Where Did My Money GO!?
When I asked my Bank for a chargeback procedure to be undertaken, they were not helpful at all. And finally I did not get any details on the process of chargeback, they just simply stated that the money was transferred to an Estonian bank, that's all.
Since the transfers were done hastily mainly the 5000€ I cannot even remember, how it was proceeded from the Estonian bank, but I know I had to create an Exodus wallet.
How Bitcoin/Crypto Was Used to Rob Me
I guess from there it was transferred to Coinbase where it was changed to BTC (to make it untraceable?) and the transferred maybe to GTStox account where then it again appeared as Euro. All the transaction details are screenshot in the above file, if some are missing then just let me know as it is no problem to find them. Why can’t I properly remember the steps of transfer? Well I was instructed to allow TeamViewer access to my PC, and the agent basically did the transfer and I assisted with the registration to those aforementioned sites. I hope someone can track down the route of my deposits.
The Fake Interfaces
In addition, I attached screenshots of trading details of GTStox, whether real or just a false interface I don't know, the trading as shown is by me.
I added, as per sircles' request, the phone numbers and remarks to the screenshots. The numbers with London prefixes (+44) certainly were the agents computer generated numbers, but then later I am not so sure since the agent was calling me. Perhaps the numbers with prefixes +49 belonged to them, but I am not sure. I do know that even by December and the following months, the new agent was pursuing me after "having lost all my funds in trade" explaining that I should make further deposits (I still have those numbers on my phone, too).
Moreover, since that activity with GTStox, I have had an enormous number of identifiable phone calls from Western Europe and also from Slovakia (with regional prefixes non-existent in Slovakia).
When I realised, late November that the agent is gone and not responding, nobody replies to anything, I tried to file a withdrawal quickly but it was in vein. Since then there was no answer to my call, these mails, chats, requests, etc.