Over 100 people suspected of phishing, SIM card swapping, e-mail fraud in handcuffs • The Register


Police have arrested 106 people suspected of committing online fraud for an organized crime gang linked to the Italian mafia, Europol said on Monday.

Most of those detained were handcuffed in Spain, and the rest in Italy, by the Spanish national police, the Italian national police, Europol and Eurojust, we are told.

It is claimed that the suspects scammed hundreds of victims using phishing; SIM swap attacks, in which crooks typically take control of people’s cell phone numbers to send them login tokens via SMS; and the so-called business email compromise, in which fraudsters typically use fake invoices and the like to trick company staff into transferring money to thieves.

According to Europlod, the suspected criminals were primarily based in Tenerife, one of Spain’s Canary Islands, and primarily targeted Italian nationals – as well as Spanish, British, German and Irish people. The money mined through phishing, social engineering and hijacked online bank accounts was then laundered through mules and shell companies. In total, the company made a profit of around € 10million (£ 8.6million, $ 11.7million), it is claimed.

“This large criminal network was very well organized in a pyramid structure, which included different specialist areas and roles,” Europol said in a statement.

Within this crime syndicate, Europol said, some members were computer experts who created phishing websites and carried out cyber frauds; others were recruiters and organizers of money mules; and some were money laundering experts who sometimes used cryptocurrencies. The cops said some of the handcuffed people had “connections to mafia organizations.” We wouldn’t be at all surprised if the crowd had or had connections to other phishing and cyber fraud networks.

An investigation into the Tenerife affair resulted in 16 house searches and 118 frozen bank accounts. In the process, officers seized numerous electronic devices, 224 credit cards, SIM cards, and point-of-sale terminals, as well as a marijuana plantation and associated farming and distribution equipment.

It took more than a year for authorities to infiltrate and dismantle the operation, which included overseas work opportunities for the three analysts and a forensic expert from Europol, headquartered in The Hague, dispatched to Tenerife and Italy.

Spain’s National Police have more details here. The Italians have a similar breakdown of the operation here.

For example, Italian police tell us that the stolen funds “were then recycled through the purchase of cryptocurrency or reinvested in other criminal activities, such as prostitution, drug production and trafficking, and drug trafficking. ‘weapons “.

Breaking down such cybercrime is nothing new for Europol and its friends. In the past, law enforcement has foiled an operation involving fraudsters hijacking business email systems to send messages that convinced clients of those businesses to transfer payments to the crooks’ bank accounts. Cops also raided the homes of suspected users of Droidjack, a strain of Android malware.

You need to hand it over to the Mafia to keep up with news and trends, because phishing, compromising business emails, and trading SIM cards are real crimes of the times. Google claims that it prevents more than 100 million harmful emails from entering Gmail accounts per day, and during the peak of the pandemic last year, there were 18 million daily emails from malware and phishing software related to COVID alone. ®


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