Romanian police have arrested 25 people who are suspected of being part of a cyber-crime gang that organised $15m in fraudulent bank withdrawals.
The Romanian Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) searched 42 houses across the country on Sunday in connection with more than 34,000 fraudulent cash withdrawals in 24 countries.
The criminal activities apparently targeted banks based in Puerto Rico and Muscat, the capital of Oman. It is understood that the card details of large corporations were stolen from banks in those locations, and withdrawal limits removed from the accounts.
Cloned cards were then printed and distributed to other members of the gang, which DIICOT estimates has 52 members.
These cards were then used to withdraw cash from ATMs in an organised and careful manner that included limiting transactions to banks' non-working days. Members of the group also made their fraudulent withdrawals simultaneously from the ATMs of financial institutions in Japan, England, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium and Romania.
Maximising their withdrawals within a given time period, the criminals pinched $5m in 4,200 withdrawals on December 2, 2013, from ATMs at banks located in 15 cities. It seems as if the same criminals netted $9m from banks in Japan on February 2 of the same year.
During the house searches for the suspects, the Romanian rozzers also managed to pick up 16 high-end laptops and mobile phones which they suspect were used in the criminal activity, about €150,000 in cash, some paintings and two kilograms of gold ingots.
DIICOT states that the group leaders may have invested other proceeds from their crimes in movable and immovable property which is likely to be seized.
Specialised support was provided to DIICOT by the Romanian Intelligence Service, and the Department of Information and Internal Protection. The action was carried out with the support of the Romanian Gendarmerie. ®