Greek police headquarters
Athens, October 25, 2023
Statements regarding the dismantling of a multi-member criminal organization, the members of which systematically engaged in computer fraud using the “Phishing” method
Arrest of -24- members of the organization, including -3- leaders
155 people are still included in the file
The total loss of the victims exceeds -6- million euros
Statements of the Director of the Electronic Crime Prosecution Directorate, Police Director Vasilios Papakostas
We have called you here today to present to you an important case of the Electronic Crime Prosecution Directorate of the Hellenic Police Headquarters, which dealt a major blow to criminal groups active in the interception of citizens’ personal data through internet fraud through the dismantling of a multi-member criminal organization, whose members systematically engaged in computer fraud using the “Phishing” method throughout the Greek territory.
It is a multi-member criminal organization, which was coordinated by a central core of -25- people, leaders and key members, while its action was assisted by at least -130- auxiliary – regional members, some of whom had permanent and others occasional activity.
Characteristic of their action is the specialized technical knowledge and skills they had developed regarding the construction and management of fraudulent pages, as well as excellent knowledge of handling electronic banking systems, while in order to achieve their purpose they demonstrated flexibility and adaptability, as it turned out that they completed the their action in a very short period of time from the time the data was intercepted.
In order to dismantle the criminal organization, a large-scale coordinated police operation codenamed “APATE” (Operation Against Phishing Attacks Targeting E-banking) was carried out on the morning of October 23, 2023 in areas of Attica and Crete, during which they were arrested -24- key members, (17 men and 7 women), including -3- leading members of the organization.
Police forces of the Special Suppression and Anti-Terrorism Unit, the Economic Police Directorate, the Attica Security Directorate, the Attica Police Operations Directorate, OPKE, as well as the Security Sub-Directorate of Heraklion, Crete, participated in the operation.
For this reason, I congratulate all executives for the professionalism they demonstrated at all stages of the operation, both at the informational level and during the pre-investigative and operational part.
More details will be presented to you by the Press Spokesperson of the Hellenic Police, Police Officer 2 Demoglidos Constantia”.
Statements of the Greek Police Spokesman, Police Officer II Demoglidos Constantias
As previously mentioned by the Director of the Electronic Crime Prosecution Directorate, in the context of the operation that took place on the morning of October 23, 2023 in areas of Attica and Crete, -24- key members were identified and arrested (17 men and 7 women), including -3- leading and against them, a criminal case was filed for – as the case may be – the formation and management of a criminal organization, membership in a criminal organization, fraud, joint and consecutive computer fraud, illegal acquisition of intangible means of payment, counterfeiting, acceptance and distribution of proceeds of crime, money laundering, as well as for breach of arms legislation.
The case file still includes -155- people, members of the criminal organization, while at the same time the degree of participation and involvement of more than -1,200- beneficiaries of bank accounts of the so-called “moneymules” (moneymules), who facilitated the action of the criminal organization, is being examined.
It was preceded by a multi-month and thorough investigation that included technical – digital investigations of large extent and volume, data analyses, special investigative operations and police investigations from the combined analysis of which emerged the activity of the criminal organization, at least from the middle of the year 2022, which had as for the purpose of interception and illegal access to the electronic banking (E-banking) accounts of the victims and then the transfer and disbursement of the entire amount of money available by the members of the criminal organization.
In this criminal activity, more than -1,200- beneficiaries of bank accounts (moneymules) are included, who facilitated the activity of the criminal organization, granting its members, usually for a monetary fee, the management of their bank accounts (access to e- banking), as well as the withdrawal cards connected to them.
The members of the organization operated with a specific structure and hierarchy and had developed distinct roles, which were distributed across four hierarchical levels:
Criminal Organization Headquarters (1st level)
Business Call Center – Banking & Proceeds of Crime Collection Center (Level 2)
Bank card collection & preparation department, cash withdrawal department and proceeds of crime receipt and resale department (3rd level)
“Money mules” (4th level)
Regarding the mode of action (modus operandi), the members of the criminal organization approached the victims through telephone communication, where they sometimes presented themselves as interested in the provision of services or potential buyers of products they found in online advertisements and sometimes as employees of companies or public services (DEDDIE, Tax Office, Municipal employees, accountants, etc.), regarding the refund of a sum of money, the granting of allowances such as “marketpass”, “fuelpass”, “powerpass”, etc.
Then, initially by verbal manipulation and then by means of fraudulent hyperlinks (phishing links) that largely resembled those of banking institutions, they managed to steal login credentials (username & password) and gain illegal access to electronic banking accounts (e- banking) of the victims.
Then, they proceeded to transfer the entire amount of money available to the bank accounts of recruited people (moneymules), while other members proceeded to withdraw the withdrawn sums of money from various ATMs throughout the territory, which were hierarchically delivered to the leading members of the organization.
In fact, where it was not possible to transfer the money to bank accounts, the members of the organization either activated the debit cards of the victims, in intangible form, in the digital wallets (e-wallets) of business mobile phones of the organization, or issued new cards, with use of which they then made purchases through contactless transactions, from stores selling mainly technology products, which other members of the organization subsequently resold.
In searches carried out in houses, in the presence of court officials, a total of the following were found and confiscated:
–7– I.X.E. cars,
–74– mobile telephone devices,
-9- portable tablet devices and -4- portable electronic computers,
-11- portable digital storage media,
–2– PC hard drives,
-17- bank cards and -9- bank deposit books,
a lot of valuables – jewelry,
sword, hunting cartridges, 9mm cartridges and precision scales,
a number of documents, evidence of remittances, handwritten notes, as well as the sum of -12,250- euros.
From the further investigation, the involvement of the members of the organization was identified in at least -670- cases of fraud, committed and attempted, with the total loss of the victims exceeding -6- million euros.
In addition, it is noted that an arrest warrant was pending against one of the arrested regarding his involvement in the case of the homicide of an 8-year-old that took place on 14/10/2023 in Zefyri, Attica.
The arrested persons, with the case filed against them, were taken to the competent prosecutor’s office and referred to the main interrogation”.
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