Eurojust has coordinated a follow-up action against a Romanian criminal network involved in extensive online fraud against users of popular consumer sites such as Amazon and eBay. During an action day, the Romanian and Greek authorities arrested eight members of an organised crime group (OCG). The criminal network used phishing scams to defraud online customers of at least EUR 2 million as they tried to buy prestigious cars and a range of other products, or to book accommodations. In total 30 places were searched and EUR 220 000 in cash, mobile phones and travel documents were seized.
Last month, Eurojust supported another operation against other members of the same OCG, who committed online fraud in the Dutch housing market, leading to two arrests.
The OCG managed to get hold of bank account numbers and other data of customers using phishing techniques, the sending of fraudulent messages to victims. Unaware that their devices had been infected by malware, customers provided personal financial data, credit card or bank account numbers, and login details.
This happened when they booked accommodations on websites such as Airbnb, for instance, or purchased goods via Amazon. Customers subsequently lost the money that was taken from their credit cards or bank accounts for the purchase of products or services, which they never received. Regarding the accommodations, the scammers pretended certain places were their properties and made victims believe the transactions were taking place via Airbnb.
The data of victims were shared with other participants in the scheme. The criminal network set up at least 300 bank accounts in Hungary, Spain, Poland, Germany and the Netherlands, using forged identity documents, to hide their profits.
The online scammers also pretended to sell equipment and cars on eBay by posting fictitious advertisements and transferring the profits to their own accounts. For this purpose, they used the names of non-existent transport and payment companies, which were similar to legally operating enterprises, thus misleading victims.
On various other sites, the fraudsters posted fake advertisements of expensive cars, worth over EUR 50 000 each. For this fraudulent activity, they had set up companies and bank accounts in several other EU Member States. In one case alone, they made EUR 440 000 in illegal profits in two months using a German enterprise.
Eurojust ensured the necessary cross-border judicial coordination and cooperation by facilitating the set-up of the joint investigation team (JIT) between the Romanian and Dutch authorities. Furthermore, it assisted with the execution of European Investigation Orders by the national authorities of Hungary and Spain.
The action day on the ground was rolled out by the Directorate for Investigation of Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT), the Service for Combating Organized Crime of the Police of Vâlcea and the Brigade for Combating Organized Crime (BCCO) of Pitești, Alba and Bucharest in Romania.
In Greece, support was provided by the Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) Office of the Public Prosecutor’s Office at the Court of Appeals of Athens and the Special MLA Investigative Judge at the Court of First Instance of Athens. The Hellenic Police (Cybercrime Division) conducted three searches in Athens during the action day.