European police have busted an organized criminal group related to the Italian mafia that deceived hundreds of people through phishing and other forms of online fraud.
The Spanish National Police (Policia Nacional), with the help of the Italian National Police (Polizia di Stato), Eurojust, and Europol, spearheaded a joint operation, which resulted in 106 arrests across Italy and Spain.
The criminal group used phishing, Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks, and SIM swapping, according to Europol. It is believed that this group made profits of about €10 million ($11.7 million) last year.
The squad, described as “very well organized,” featured many computer crime professionals responsible for building phishing domains and committing cyber fraud. Money mules, money laundering professionals, and cryptocurrency experts were also part of the criminal network.
The criminals, who operated out of the Canary Islands in Spain, duped victims – primarily from Italy – into wiring large amounts of funds to bank accounts under the criminals’ control. They then laundered the money using shell businesses and money mules.
According to the FBI, Business Email Compromise is one of the most lucrative kinds of cybercrime, costing organizations billions of dollars each year.
Before making arrests, police had been investigating the gang for over a year. Europol sent two analysts and one forensic specialist to Tenerife, Spain, and one analyst to Italy as part of the operation. Three Italian detectives were also sent to Tenerife by Europol to assist the Spanish police on the action day.
In addition to 106 arrests, 118 bank accounts have been blocked, and several gadgets, including 224 credit cards, SIM cards, and point-of-sale terminals, have been confiscated.