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Fraud in online trading continues despite rulings

Trading platforms like 24Option lure customers online with quick profits, but customers are often cheated out of their money. Individual perpetrators have been sentenced to prison, but the people behind them are still doing it.

Already in 2018, ARD Finance Department and Plus minus in detail about the dubious dealings at the 24Option trading platform. The broker used Italy's record champion Juventus Turin and tennis legend Boris Becker to attract customers. The advertisement promised quick profits with binary options and CFDs, simply via a smartphone app.

CFDs (“Contract for Difference”) are basically short-term bets on rising or falling prices for stocks, currencies, and cryptocurrencies. Not on the stock exchange, but purely in the broker's software. Anyone who registered was assigned an “account manager” who was supposed to help them trade successfully.

Brokers profit from the loss of customers

What the customers did not know: The broker earned money from the customers' losses, and the “account managers” received commissions on the amounts the customers lost. If employees ensured that customers deposited 300,000 euros more than they withdrew, they received a fat bonus of 12,000 euros on top of the modest fixed salary of 2,000 euros.

And the best way to prevent withdrawals was to empty the customers’ accounts. How this was achieved is shown in telephone recordings that Plus minus The customers were often tricked into believing they were friends. The “account managers”, who were not financial advisors and were not allowed to give investment recommendations, put their customers under massive pressure, manipulated them, and played on their hopes and fears.

Investigation successes by journalists

“Binary King” Kevin S., a team leader in 24Option's Cologne office, was particularly successful. He often looked after his customers for weeks or months, went out to eat with them, and gained their trust. Until he then drove them into ruinous trades. He is said to have called this “financially liberating” internally. He was arrested at the end of 2021 after, according to our reports, he fled abroad in 2018. In February 2024, he was sentenced to five and a half years in prison for deceiving his customers and advising them to make trades that sometimes led to massive losses.

So far, only two employees from Cologne have been convicted, but there are “indications of a systematic approach in this area,” as Cologne public prosecutor Stephanie Beller explains. The investigation is ongoing. “The work of a journalist contributed significantly to the success of the investigation as part of the investigation,” said Beller about the research from 2018.

Cyprus as a hotspot for brokers

The company behind 24Option was called Rodeler Limited at the time and was officially based in Cyprus. The island in the Mediterranean is an El Dorado for such brokers. Around 250 companies operate more than 550 online broker sites from there. Officially regulated by the Cypriot financial regulator CySec and thus authorized to sell their high-risk products throughout the EU. However, the official addresses are often just mailboxes.

The people behind 24Option were based in Tel Aviv at a company called BitTech. The companies no longer officially exist, but the straw men and backers continue with the same business model and new platform names, as joint research by Plus minus and Swiss Broadcasting prove.

New names – same scam

The new platforms are strikingly similar in design and structure, entire text blocks are identical. And the names in the commercial register are the same as they were six years ago at 24Option. And the head of one of the new platforms, Inefex, also confirms to his colleagues from Swiss Broadcasting indirectly that the same network as 24Option operates the platforms.

Patrick Wilson is not surprised. The lawyer from Munich has advised thousands of people who have lost money on such platforms. He was able to see a seamless transition from 24Option to ForexTB, for example. “There was some overlap with clients who were initially customers of 24Option and were then contacted by ForexTB. And I also saw overlaps in terms of personnel,” says Wilson.

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have now fallen victim to this fraudulent scheme. Some victims have taken their own lives out of desperation. The damage caused by online brokers is estimated at up to ten billion euros annually. And despite individual convictions, the fraudulent billion-dollar business with new websites continues. The national investigative authorities rarely keep up.

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