How fraudsters stole $37 million from Coinbase Pro users

A convincing phishing page and some over-the-phone social engineering allowed a group of crooks to steal over $37 million from unlucky Coinbase Pro users.

One of them – Chirag Tomar, a 30-year-old citizen of the Republic of India – has been arrested on US soil, has pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy, and is awaiting sentencing.

The scheme

Around June 2021, Tomar and his co-conspirators set up a spoofed Coinbase Pro website at CoinbasePro.Com, the prosecutors claim. (The legitimate site was hosted at Pro.Coinbase.Com.)

“Once victims entered their login credentials into the fake website, an authentication process was triggered. In some instances, victims were tricked into providing their login and authentication information of the real Coinbase website to fraudsters. Other times, victims were tricked into allowing fake Coinbase representatives into executing remote desktop software, which enabled fraudsters to gain control of victims’ computers and access their legitimate Coinbase accounts,” says the US Deparment of Justice.

In some cases, the fraudsters impersonated Coinbase customer service representatives and tricked the users into providing their two-factor authentication codes over the phone.

Once they got the needed authentication information, they accessed the victims’ Coinbase accounts and transferred all the money to cryptocurrency wallets under their control.

The results

Tomar was arrested at the Atlanta airport on December 20, 2023, so the scheme went on for two and a half years – or possibly a bit less, as Coinbase Pro was sunsetted in late 2023.

“After Tomar received the stolen cryptocurrency, he would quickly convert it to other forms of cryptocurrency or move the funds amongst many wallets controlled by Tomar and others. Ultimately, the cryptocurrency was converted into cash which was then distributed to Tomar and his co-conspirators,” they added. “Tomar used the victims’ funds to pay for his lavish lifestyle.”

In that relatively short period of time, the conspirators stole cryptocurrency amounting to over $37 million.

For his part in the scheme, Tomar could be sentenced to spend up to 20 years in prison and to pay a $250,000 fine.

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