Europol downs cyber fraud ring that defrauded companies in 20 countries

Europol downs cyber fraud ring that defrauded companies in 20 countries

Interpol seizes £58.4m in multi-national crackdown on financial cyber crime

A cyber crime ring composed of nearly two dozen fraudsters was taken down by Europol after it was discovered using fraudulent emails and websites to dupe companies in twenty countries out of approximately £850,000.

The crime ring was composed of nationals from different African countries who resided in several European countries and coordinated with each other to carry out fraudulent online campaigns targeting a large number of companies, Europol said via a press release.

As many as twenty-three cyber criminals were charged by law enforcement authorities in the Netherlands, Romania, and Ireland after Europol cracked down on their illegal activities. The law enforcement agency said the criminals successfully defrauded companies in at least 20 countries of approximately €1 million (£850,000).

“The fraud was run by an organised crime group which prior to the COVID-19 pandemic already illegally offered other fictitious products for sale online, such as wooden pellets. Last year the criminals changed their modus operandi and started offering protective materials after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This criminal group – composed of nationals from different African countries residing in Europe, created fake email addresses and webpages similar to the ones belonging to legitimate wholesale companies. Impersonating these companies, these criminals would then trick the victims – mainly European and Asian companies, into placing orders with them, requesting the payments in advance in order for the goods to be sent.

“However, the delivery of the goods never took place, and the proceeds were laundered through Romanian bank accounts controlled by the criminals before being withdrawn at ATMs,” Europol said.

Instances of cyber criminals using the COVID-19 pandemic to defraud millions out of vast sums of money has been on the rise since early 2020. Cyber criminals have, since then, used every possible trick in the book, including setting up websites that mimic those of e-commerce platforms, hospitals, medical agencies, etc., and including links to these malicious websites in phishing emails to defraud Internet users.

While you can defend against these malicious campaigns by ignoring too-good-to-be-true offers or unsolicited emails and cross-checking the genuineness of websites, you can also play a role in ensuring these campaigns are nipped in the bud and cyber crime is made unprofitable for opportunistic fraudsters.

Earlier this month, the National Cyber Security Centre launched its new scam website reporting service, enabling Internet users in the UK to report websites that are malicious or fraudulent in nature or impersonate the websites of popular brands. NCSC will analyse the reported sites and will direct hosting providers to remove the websites if they are found to be fraudulent in nature.

“We are excited to launch our new website reporting tool, which will allow people to report fake websites directly to us. With this tool, we’ll be able to request the take down of even more malicious content online and therefore protect more people from scams and fraudsters,” said NCSC Technical Director Dr Ian Levy.

Also Read: Europol launches decryption platform to take down organised cyber crime

Copyright Lyonsdown Limited 2021

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