The European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) at Europol, working with police in Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Bulgaria, Spain, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, have taken down a criminal network of Latvian payment card fraudsters and arrested eight key members of the group. Some members of the network had previously been arrested in the Russian Federation.
The criminals were involved in compromising financial data during cash machine transactions across several EU and non-EU countries. Techniques used by the criminals were very sophisticated, rendering customers easy targets. The group posed a major threat for electronic payments by mis-using European payment card data in remote destinations such as Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Thailand and the US. Several thousand EU customers, plus banks, were affected by the criminal network. It is suspected that the cumulative activity of this criminal group has caused hundreds of thousands of euros in losses.
EC3 provided operational and analytical support for the Operation, codenamed FatBoy, as well as coordinating the international investigations. Europol’s support also increased the efficiency of communication and crossborder analysis. During operational meetings at Europol in The Hague, investigators from the countries affected agreed to the exchange of intelligence, through the Europol network of Liaison Officers (ELOs), and the coordinated actions on 29 November 2013. Direct cooperation was key to the final success as evidence on bank transactions, financial information, CCTV pictures, internet communications and illegal equipment was seized in different countries.
The Head of European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), Troels Oerting, says: “This is another great example of a successful joint effort between Member States and EC3 to protect citizens in the European Union (EU). Police forces in the EU are utilising Europol’s unique tools to ensure that electronic payment transactions are made safer. We are continuously investing more resources into this vital support platform, and now we are seeing the results of this essential work.”
According to card fraud statistics published in July 2013 by the European Central Bank, about 20% of the value of all payment card fraud (€232 million) results from automated teller machines (ATMs), 25% results from point-of-sale (POS) terminals (€290 million) and more than 50% of the value of fraud (€655 million) results from card-not-present (CNP) payments such us payments via the Internet. With regard to the fraud involving ATMs, 95% of all counterfeit card fraud occurs outside Europe.