European police dismantle cybercrime ring with ties to Italian Mafia

Cyber Security

The group used phishing, BEC and other types of attacks to swindle victims out of millions

Law enforcement agencies from Europe have cracked down on an organized group that is associated with the Italian Mob and has been involved in all manner of cybercrime, including phishing campaigns, SIM swapping and Business Email Compromise (BEC). The criminal network was also involved in identity theft, money laundering, drug trafficking, property crime, arms dealing and other exceedingly violent crimes.

“The suspects defrauded hundreds of victims through phishing attacks and other types of online fraud such as SIM swapping and business email compromise before laundering the money through a wide network of money mules and shell companies. Last year alone, the illegal profit is estimated at about € 10 million,” reads Europol’s press release.

The operation was spearheaded by the Spanish National Police and backed by the Italian National Police, as well as Europol and Eurojust, the European Union’s law enforcement and judicial agencies, respectively. The operation led to 106 arrests, 16 house searches, 118 bank accounts being frozen, and the seizure of a variety of electronic devices, 224 credit cards, SIM cards, and point-of-sale terminals.

Europol described the group as well-organized, with the network comprised of members with various specializations. “Among the members of the criminal group were computer experts, who created the phishing domains and carried out the cyber fraud; recruiters and organisers of the money muling; and money laundering experts, including experts in cryptocurrencies,” said the European law enforcement agency.

The group operated out of Tenerife in the Canary Islands and used various tactics to dupe unsuspecting victims, usually Italian nationals, out of vast amounts of money, which they would send to bank accounts managed by the criminal organization. Once the money was wired to their accounts, they proceeded to launder it either through a large network of shell companies and money mules.

It’s no wonder that organized crime has taken an increasing interest in cybercrime and especially BEC scams. According to the FBI’s 2020 Internet Crime Report, BEC scams remain top-dog, with losses emanating from them reaching a total of almost US$2 billion last year. And if the FBI’s annual report is any indication the losses from BEC scams can only be expected to grow further in the future.

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