On 14 April 2016, the Italian Carabinieri, in close cooperation with Europol, successfully disrupted an international criminal group responsible for large-scale ATM skimming, forgery of documents and money laundering. Composed mainly of Romanian nationals, the criminal network used sophisticated ATM skimming devices which allowed it to compromise ATMs across Europe. Estimated losses incurred by the criminals’ activities amount to at least EUR 1.2 million.
This operation resulted in multiple house searches and the final arrest of 16 individuals in Italy. Micro camera bars, card readers, magnetic strip readers and writers, computers, phones and flash drives, as well as plastic cards ready to be encoded were also seized as part of this operation.
The primary modus operandi of the criminals was to harvest financial data from ATMs in different EU Member States (Italy, Denmark and the UK), which they then used to create fake payment cards. These fake cards were used to withdraw large amounts of cash from ATMs outside the European Union (Indonesia and Belize).
Europol's European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) initiated the case in 2014 and supported the involved law enforcement authorities in their efforts to identify the suspects. Operational meetings were held at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague and EC3 provided analytical and forensic support throughout the investigation including the deployment of a mobile office during the final action day to assist the Italian authorities.
In addition, Europol’s information and analysis systems were used to exchange and cross-check intelligence received from EU Member States and non-EU countries with which Europol has signed an operational agreement.
Steven Wilson, Head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), said: “Organised criminal groups are always looking for new global opportunities to make money, especially in the criminal market of payment fraud. Operations such as this highlight the importance of using Europol’s secure tools for exchanging intelligence and for coordinating the crucial operational stages involved in complex international cases. The resounding success of such an operation is not the first nor will it be the last, as police officers and prosecutors, alongside EC3, continue in their tireless endeavours to make payment transactions safer for customers throughout Europe and beyond."
ATM skimming refers to the use of highly advanced devices in order to target an ATM, thus allowing the attackers to copy and store magnetic strip card data and confidential PIN codes.
To reduce the risk of becoming a victim of this type of electronic crime, check your banking transactions regularly and immediately inform your bank of anything suspicious, which could also include a transaction not being debited from your account after you have used your card.