Almeria couple part of international criminal gang arrested over €326,000 internet scam

THE National Police have arrested a couple from Almeria who were allegedly involved in a €326,000 internet scam that was operated by an international criminal network.

A couple from Almeria in the region of Spain’s Andalucia were part of a much larger criminal gang that operated across ten different countries that included: Germany, Belarus, Slovenia, Hungary, Italy, North Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Ukraine and China.

According to a statement from the National Police, the pair possessed a high degree of technical expertise. In order to carry out the scam, the couple used a variety of methods, such as SIM swapping, CEO fraud and phishing. Items seized in the police raid included eleven telephone cards, seven bank cards, a box of luxury watches, two computer tablets, documentation and bank contracts, three mobile phones, numerous mass storage devices and a computer. All were taken away for forensic tests and identification.

CEO fraud, also known as Business Email Compromise (BEC), is a type of fraud that is enabled via social engineering. Social engineering is the manipulation of situations and people that results in the targeted individuals divulging confidential information. In simple terms, users are conned into believing that they are actually communicating with the real accounts or other departments of a company and so often divulge sensitive information to the cybercriminals.

Phishing is another type of social engineering attack often used to steal user data, including login credentials and credit card numbers. It occurs when an attacker, masquerading as a trusted entity, dupes a victim into opening an email, instant message, or text message.

The police investigation began in September 2019, when cybercriminals allegedly carried out a CEO fraud on a Spanish textile company, impersonating their corporate email so that the company would make transfers to bank accounts belonging to the criminals.

As a result of this scam, several victims came to the surface who had been deceived by the same couple. Using other techniques, like identity theft, those involved received almost 40 bank cards in other peoples names which they then used to make payments and cash withdrawals. Transfers were later traced by financial investigators to various countries listed above in the network.

The National Police in Spain are currently working alongside Europol to locate and arrest other members of the organisation.

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