Four key members of an international criminal network responsible for compromising payment card data and illegal transactions against European citizens were arrested today, 30 November 2017, during a joint law enforcement operation called “Neptune”.
The operation run by the Italian Carabinieri, in cooperation with the Bulgarian General Directorate of Combating Organised Crime, and the National Police of Czech Republic, supported by Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) culminated today with the arrest of four Bulgarian citizens. The leaders of the transnational criminal group actively supervised all stages of criminal activities, including placing technical equipment on ATMs in the central areas of European cities, producing counterfeit credit cards and subsequently cashing out money from ATMs in non-European countries, for example Belize, Indonesia and Jamaica.
During the coordinated action today, dozens of ATMs were identified as being tampered by placing skimming devices such as micro cameras and magnetic strip readers. Over 1000 counterfeit credit cards were seized and evidence of many fraudulent international transactions worth more than EUR 50 000 were collected.
The investigation started at the end of 2015, and from the very beginning the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) assisted the investigation by providing forensic and analytical support, organising on-the-spot forensic activities as well as analysing seized laptops and smartphones. The coordination and exchange of intelligence has been supported by the Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT) set up at Europol. Since most of the illegal transactions with counterfeit cards took place overseas, the cooperation through dedicated investigative networks set up by Europol has been instrumental.
A key factor for the successful dismantling of this criminal organization was the close police cooperation between police forces from Italy, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, supported by Europol. Working closely with the banking sector, law enforcement made another significant step towards making electronic transactions safer in the European Union.