42 professional fraudsters, members of internet based criminal networks, have been arrested for online fraud activities. They have been ordering high-value goods from online shops with stolen credit card information. The individuals had performed more than 3 000 illegal online transactions through which they had purchased items worth a total of EUR 3.5 million.
Law enforcement authorities from Austria, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and the United Kingdom, supported by Europol, teamed up in a coordinated joint action against those criminal networks, targeting the locations where illegally purchased goods had been delivered.
Europol coordinated this operation from its headquarters in The Hague, with direct assistance from payment card schemes, banks, logistic companies and e-merchants. Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) specialists were also deployed in the Member States with mobile offices to offer on-the-spot support to national authorities.
- A great amount of packages from online shops was intercepted and 120 locations were searched, using information that had been previously submitted by e-merchants, payment industry and logistic companies. The house searches led seizures of high-value goods, including electronic appliances, smartphones, tablets, watches and clothing.
- The investigative measures also revealed that the suspects might have been involved in other forms of crime, such as ID fraud, phishing, cyber-attacks, romance fraud, illegal use of stolen passports, illegal immigration, money laundering and terrorism.
- In one case, a fraudster was charged for fraud activities amounting to EUR 600 000 fraud. An employee of a delivery company was found to be involved in the crime as well. A money laundering scheme worth EUR 1.5 million has also been detected.
- Several new investigations have been initiated as a result of this operation.This was the first European-wide action on e-Commerce fraud. This type of cooperation is an effective way of tackling payment card fraud while saving police resources. By working together and utilising Europol’s unique capabilities, law enforcement authorities from Member States were able to piece together 3 000 individual fraud investigations into 40 international cases. Merchants and banks contributed extensively to these investigations.
- This operation follows the successful Europol-supported action led by the United Kingdom (DCPCU) in June 2016.
Payment card fraud against on-line shops is considered as high profit and low risk criminal activity with losses for the European sector exceeding EUR 1 billion. Investigative measures are very complex due to the virtual and international dimension of this crime. Cyber fraud is a top priority for Europol and law enforcement agencies across the European Union.
The operation is a practical continuation of the work of E-Commerce Working Group, a private-public partnership network established in 2013 with the key stakeholders, including Merchant Risk Council, a network of 450 e-merchants.