Spain’s National Police and the U.S. Secret Service have dismantled a Madrid-based international cybercrime ring comprised of nine members who stole over €5,000,000 from individuals and North American companies.
The cybercrime gang specializes in online scams, employing social engineering, phishing, and smishing to collect sensitive victim details and then use that information to commit financial fraud.
The organization maintained over a hundred bank accounts in various Spanish banks, using them to deposit their criminal proceeds, withdraw cash from ATMs, send it to international accounts, or convert it to cryptocurrency.
As a result of the joint law enforcement operation, the police have arrested eight people in Spain and one in Miami, USA. In addition to the arrests, the police seized luxury items valued at €200,000 and froze assets worth over €500,000.
Social engineering attacks
The cybercriminals contacted individuals and companies in North America via phishing emails and SMS. They followed up with calls using a spoofed number to make it appear as if the caller was a legitimate entity.
The criminals aimed to deceive the victims into revealing their confidential information, allowing them to perform online purchases or transfer funds directly from the victim’s bank accounts to their own in Spain.
The police’s announcement says the crooks stole nearly €5,000,000 from 200 individuals and companies in just a year. However, there are some indications that the total stolen amount may exceed €7,000,000.
The main suspect utilized an array of false identity documents to control over a hundred bank accounts where the stolen funds were deposited. These accounts were opened under the names of other individuals, some collaborating directly with the crime ring, while others were unsuspecting victims themselves.
The cybercriminals then used the proceeds to travel extensively across Europe and the United States, acquiring luxury items and opening additional bank accounts to help with money laundering.
On the other hand, agents have also blocked 74 bank accounts, freezing assets for more than 500,000 euros.
At the registered address they located an area where they stored the fraudulently acquired merchandise or through the funds from the scams, in such a way that it looked like a luxury goods store.” – Policia Espana.
According to the Spanish authorities, cybercrime is on the rise in the country, with one in every five crimes now taking place online.
In 2022, the police recorded 375,500 cases of cybercrime in Spain, a 72% increase from 2019 and a 352% increase from 2015.
The police say one clear sign of fraud is when the caller puts the victim on hold every time they provide the requested information, as they are using that information to commit money transfers in real-time as they speak to the victim.