The Spanish National Police, in collaboration with the U.S. Secret Service, has dismantled an international cybercrime ring that has stolen over €5,000,000 from individuals and North American companies. The criminal organization, based in Madrid, employed social engineering, phishing, and smishing to obtain sensitive victim details and commit financial fraud.

Arrests and seizures

The cybercrime gang’s fraudulent activities were widespread, with the group maintaining over a hundred bank accounts in various Spanish banks. However, the joint law enforcement operation has led to the arrest of eight people in Spain and one in Miami, USA. Additionally, police have seized luxury items valued at €200,000 and frozen assets worth over €500,000.

The criminal tactics for cybercrime

The cybercriminals’ primary method was to contact individuals and companies in North America via phishing emails and SMS. Following this, they made calls using a spoofed number to deceive victims into believing they were a legitimate entity. This enabled them to obtain the confidential information they needed to commit fraud, such as making online purchases or transferring funds directly from the victim’s bank accounts to their accounts in Spain.

The total amount of funds stolen is uncertain, but the police reported that the group stole nearly €5,000,000 from 200 individuals and companies in just one year. However, some indications suggest that the actual amount could exceed €7,000,000.

The main suspect and false identity documents

The group’s mastermind utilized an array of false identity documents to control over a hundred bank accounts where the stolen funds were deposited. These accounts were opened under the names of other individuals, some of whom were collaborating directly with the crime ring, while others were unsuspecting victims themselves.

The cybercriminals then used the proceeds to travel extensively across Europe and the United States, acquiring luxury items and opening additional bank accounts to aid in money laundering.

The rise of cybercrime in Spain

According to Spanish authorities, cybercrime is on the rise in the country, with one in every five crimes now occurring online. In 2022, the police recorded 375,500 cases of cybercrime in Spain, a 72% increase from 2019 and a 352% increase from 2015.

One clear sign of fraud, as stated by the police, is when the caller places the victim on hold every time they provide the requested information, as they are using the information to commit money transfers in real-time as they speak to the victim.

The arrest of this cybercrime ring is a significant achievement for law enforcement agencies in Spain and the United States. The operation has demonstrated that international cooperation is essential in dismantling organized cybercriminal groups that employ advanced tactics to steal funds from innocent individuals and companies. This case also serves as a warning for individuals and organizations to take necessary precautions to protect themselves from cyberattacks and fraud, such as enabling multi-factor authentication and regularly reviewing bank statements for suspicious activity.