Spain’s Policia Nacional has teamed up with the US Secret Service to dismantle a cybercrime gang that stole millions of dollars from US citizens and companies.
Nine suspected members of the group have been arrested – eight in Madrid and one in Miami – after receiving close to €5m ($5.4m) from their victims, which they spent on luxury items including high-end watches costing as much as €200,000 ($215,000) each.
The scammers would apparently send individuals and US companies phishing emails and texts to trick them into handing over sensitive personal and financial information. They would follow up with vishing calls to obtain any remaining details needed, masking the origin of the calls.
In some cases, members of the group would host three-way calls in which they spoke simultaneously with victims and their US banks, in order to bypass security checks and access accounts.
They used stolen details to make fraudulent payments and transfer victims’ funds to 100 bank accounts in Spain, which were set up to launder the money. The money was then withdrawn at ATMs, sent abroad via new bank transfers or converted into crypto assets, according to Spanish police.
Alongside the seizure of luxury items including watches, police confiscated 44 mobile phones, four laptops, three desktop computers, three tablets and monitors, bags full of luxury clothing and shoes, documents and bank cards, a compressed air gun, eight false passports and assorted jewellery.
Spanish police have frozen 74 of the bank accounts, and assets of more than €500,000 ($538,000). It’s believed the total loss to victims may be even higher, at nearly €7m ($7.5m).
The police claimed that one in five criminal offenses committed in Spain is now online.