Spanish phisherfolk caught in cops' net in multi-million-euro catch

Crooks swindled about €3 million from victims

Spain's National Police say they have busted a €3 million ($3.2 million) cyber crime ring, arresting 34 miscreants allegedly responsible for phishing, stealing personal data belonging to about four million individuals.

The names of those arrested have not been made public, but the National Police claim the kingpins are now in prison. Law enforcement conducted 16 searches in Madrid, Málaga, Huelva, Alicante, and Murcia where they arrested the 34 suspects and seized weapons, computers, and cash.

This included two simulated firearms, a katana, a baseball bat, €80,000 ($84,736) in cash, four luxury vehicles, a database with information belonging to four million people, and other electronics worth thousands of euro, we're told.

Cops began investigating the gang at the beginning of the year after the criminals hacked databases belonging to a host of financial and credit firms, swiped those customers' identities, and then altered the amount of money in the victims' accounts. 

Next, the criminals contacted the banks' customers and told them they had mistakenly received money into their accounts, due to a computer error, and had to return it.

Law enforcement later uncovered other commercial databases that the gang had broken into and stolen personal information. According to police, the gang's scams ran the gamut including email, voicemail and SMS phishing campaigns impersonating electric companies' employees. They also swindled victims using so-called "son-in-distress" scams, where fraudsters pretend to be someone's child who claims to have been kidnapped or otherwise in need of money. 

The crime rings' leaders used fake documents, stolen identities, and other spoofing techniques to pull off their heists. And they laundered their profits via cryptocurrency investment platforms, the police said.

In total, the crooks swindled about €3 million ($3.2 million) from their victims, and they also sold access to the compromised organizations' IT environments.

Police say more than 1,000 complaints have been filed about the various online scams, and they haven't ruled out finding additional perpetrators and victims. 

This round of arrests follows an earlier win for European cops this month, when an international effort shut down the RagnarLocker ransomware group's leak site.

The agencies involved included Europol's European Cybercrime Centre, the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Germany's Bundeskriminalamt, among many others. ®

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