Police Bust $41m Email Scam Gang

A coordinated police operation across multiple countries has led to the dismantling of a criminal network responsible for tens of millions of dollars in business email compromise (BEC) losses.

Five action days took place between January 2022 and 2023 in France and Israel, leading to eight house searches and eight arrests, including the alleged Israeli gang leader, said Europol.

Police also seized electronic equipment and vehicles, €3m ($3.4m) from Portuguese bank accounts, €1.1m ($1.2m) from Hungarian bank accounts, €600,000 ($641,000) from Croatian bank accounts, €400,000 ($427,000) from Spanish bank accounts, and €350,000 ($374,000) in virtual currencies.

The group is said to have targeted victims in France – in one case tricking an accountant by phone into attempting a €500,000 ($535,000) wire transfer, which was subsequently spotted and blocked.

In a second case, a Parisian real estate developer was targeted after the group impersonated lawyers working for a well-known French accounting firm. According to Europol, the firm was defrauded to the tune of €38m ($41m) after the gang socially engineered its chief financial officer (CFO).

The funds were quickly laundered via European countries and China before making their way to Israel.

A resulting investigation revealed money mules operating for the gang in Croatia, Portugal and Hungary.

BEC has been the most lucrative form of cybercrime for the past few years, making fraud gangs billions in profits.

Nearly $2.4bn was lost to the crime in 2021, which amounts to over a third (35%) of the total recorded by the FBI that year.

The wide-ranging operation to track down the Franco-Israeli gang involved the Croatian National Police, the Croatian Anti Money Laundering Office, the French National Police, the French Gendarmerie, the Hungarian Budapest Metropolitan Police, the Israel Police, the Portuguese Judicial Police, and the Spanish National Police.

What’s Hot on Infosecurity Magazine?