Police have dismantled a payment-card fraud network that stretched across Europe and had the capability to clone payment cards, install skimmers on ATMs, and is responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses.
The fraud ring was operating not just in Europe, but also in the United States, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Malaysia, Costa Rica, and several other countries. Authorities said the group was active for at least three years and had been running a variety of different schemes, all aimed at stealing card data and eventually cashing out as much money as possible. Police arrested 31 people in the takedown, including 21 in Spain, nine in Bulgaria, and one in the Czech Republic.
“An entire criminal network was taken down.”
“Between 2014 and 2017, the criminal network installed skimming devices on an average of 400 ATMs every year, to copy and clone the data contained on the bank cards. The forged cards were then used to make illegal transactions in 200 ATMs outside the European Union, mainly in the USA, the Dominican Republic, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Peru, the Philippines and Costa Rica. Approximately 3 000 EU citizens were affected by the criminal network, with losses of at least EUR 500 000,” Europol said in a statement.
When the raids took place, the suspects had ATM skimmers, card data recorders, small cameras, and other kinds of equipment used to steal card data and manufacture new cards. Payment card fraud is big business and it’s been made much more difficult in recent years with the rollout of chip-and-PIN or EMV cards, which have chips embedded in them. The chips are there mainly for authentication purposes and also help prevent criminals from manufacturing their own cards, forcing fraudsters to turn to other techniques, such as ATM skimming and phone fraud.
“This successful operation confirms Eurojust’s commitment to protect the assets of EU citizens from falling into the hands of cyber fraudsters. An entire criminal network was taken down and, as a result, is no longer able to defraud innocent victims, thanks to the joint efforts of the Spanish and Bulgarian prosecuting authorities, and the valuable support provided by their National Desks at Eurojust,” said Francisco Jiménez-Villarejo, National Member for Spain at Eurojust.