Europol busts international e-commerce fraud ring, arrests 95 fraudsters

In a significant setback to the multi-nation cyber crime mafia that has been carrying out financial fraud on a large scale, Europol announced yesterday that it arrested as many as 95 fraudsters earlier this month for carrying out fraudulent transactions exceeding EUR 8 million (£7 million).

Fraudsters arrested by Europol in a joint operation with police forces and the banking industry in over 28 countries carried out over 20,000 fraudulent transactions using compromised credit cards but were caught after Europol teamed up with merchants, logistics firms, financial institutions and analytical companies to determine their identities.

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"The main goal was to target online fraud through a coordinated law enforcement action within the European Union (EU) and beyond, followed by an awareness-raising campaign. This action also marks the start of several investigations with more arrests expected in the next few months," said Europol in a press release.

"The e-commerce action combats card-not-present fraud, aiming for a safer online environment for customers worldwide by sharing information and developing best practices between law enforcement and the private sector," it added.

"The success of these operations shows how through close cooperation with our European partners, retailers and the financial sector, we are cracking down on the criminal gangs targeting consumers online. People should remember when shopping online that if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is," said Glyn Whittick, head of the UK's Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU).

Multiple victories over the cyber crime industry

The arrest of 95 professional fraudsters by Europol and police forces sends out a signal that cyber criminals, no matter how adept at their methods, are not immune from legal action and that their virtual anonymity can be unmasked by authorities using sophisticated tools and techniques. The success is another feather in Europol's cap following a series of other victories over the cyber crime industry this year.

Back in March, in a joint action with the Spanish National Police, Europol was able to bust a Russian-Ukrainian cyber crime ring that caused losses of over EUR 1 billion to over 100 financial institutions in 40 countries.

The cyber crime ring used a combination of spear-phishing and malware operations to target banks and other financial institutions between 2013 and 2016 and regularly gained access to internal banking networks and servers that controlled ATMs.

In April, Europol also announced that in a joint action in coordination with the Dutch Police, the UK’s National Crime Agency and a dozen law enforcement agencies, it had succeeded in taking down Webstresser.org, the world’s biggest marketplace for Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) services.

Before it was taken down, Webstresser.org was considered the world’s biggest marketplace to hire Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) services. It had over 136,000 registered users and 4 million attacks measured by April 2018 and DDoS tools available at the marketplace were used to target critical online services offered by banks, government institutions and police forces, as well as victims in the gaming industry.