We reported earlier this month that the UK Government has announced that the UK would renew its membership of international crime agency, Europol.
Europol is an agency which aims to strengthen and facilitate cooperation in preventing serious crimes and combating organised crime, in particular where the crimes affect two or more EU member states.
The types of cases that Europol gets involved with are very wide-ranging and can involve many different countries. In one recently reported case, Europol was involved in a cross-continental operation to bring down payment card fraudsters.
The case involved the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation, the Spanish Guardia Civil, the British West Midlands Regional Cyber Crime Unit, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), who all worked together to stop an international card-not-present fraud network. The operation took place simultaneously in Canada, Finland, Spain and the United Kingdom and resulted in 15 arrests.
Initiated by the Finnish authorities, the investigation uncovered that the members of the organised crime group (OCG) possessed more than 6,000 credit card details, which they had used to attack more than 170 e-merchants with fraudulent activities exceeding EUR 1 million.
After making the first purchase using the stolen credit card information, the criminal network uploaded and sold the data on a website available on the deep web with the purpose of it being re-used by other criminals.
Europol explains that this operation was particularly important in the fight against credit and debit card payment and online fraud because the OCG was actively attempting to recruit new members of a young age, as well as providing them with the technical skills to perform this illegal activity.
In a second example, Europol supported law enforcement authorities from Austria, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and the United Kingdom in the arrest of 42 professional online fraudsters.
They had been ordering high-value goods from online shops with stolen credit card information, and had performed more than 3,000 illegal online transactions, through which they had purchased items worth a total of EUR 3.5 million.
Europol coordinated this operation from its headquarters in The Hague, with direct assistance from payment card schemes, banks, logistic companies and e-merchants. Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre specialists were also deployed in the Member States with mobile offices to offer on-the-spot support to national authorities.
The investigation also revealed that the suspects might have been involved in other forms of crime, such as ID fraud, phishing, cyber-attacks, romance fraud, illegal use of stolen passports, illegal immigration, money laundering and terrorism.
According to Europol, fraudsters see payment card fraud against on-line shops as high profit and low risk criminal activity, and it has resulted in losses for the European sector of over EUR 1 billion. Cyber fraud is considered to be a top priority for Europol and law enforcement agencies across the European Union, but investigations can be very complex due to the virtual and international dimension of this crime.
If you have been charged with fraud offences and require representation, then contact our expert criminal defence lawyers today.