Ukrainian Cyber Cops Bust $200m Fraud Ring

Ukrainian police have played their part in a pan-European operation, resulting in the disruption of a major online fraud gang responsible for an estimated $200m in losses.

The country’s Cyber Police Department, its Main Investigative Department of the National Police, the Office of the Prosecutor General and representatives of Europol were involved in the operation.

It resulted in the arrest of five suspected members, all Ukrainian nationals, and the seizure of 500 mobile devices and pieces of computer equipment.

Their homes were searched alongside the group’s call centers in Kyiv and Ivano-Frankivsk. At the same time, police in other parts of Europe swooped on other suspected members’ homes in Albania, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Latvia and Spain.

The fraudsters would lure investors into putting their money into cryptocurrency or trading in stocks, bonds, futures and options. Although they were told by the scammers that their investments were growing at a healthy rate, the victims were never able to cash out, according to the Ukrainian Cyber Police.

To perpetuate its scams, the group operated call centers around Europe including three in Ukraine, staffed by an estimated 2000 people. The five arrested are said to have been managers at the call centers.

Investment fraud is one of the biggest earners for cyber-criminals. Although only 20,500 cases were reported to the FBI last year, these led to nearly $1.5bn in losses for the victims.

The raid by Ukrainian police follows a June operation in which nine alleged members of a prolific phishing gang were arrested on suspicion of making 100 million hryvnias ($3.4m) by luring locals with the promise of EU financial support.

Those arrested after this two-year operation will be tried under Part 3 of Article 190 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, which means they face a possible eight years behind bars.

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