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Police Bust Global Cyber Gang Accused of Industrial-Scale Fraud

In a sweeping international operation, police have dismantled a global cyber gang accused of industrial-scale fraud. The gang exploited a technology service to send fraudulent text messages, tricking victims into divulging sensitive information and making unauthorized payments.

 A total of 37 individuals have been arrested worldwide, and efforts are underway to contact and assist victims.

Authorities highlight that younger individuals, who are more familiar with the internet, were disproportionately targeted by the “phishing” scams.

The technology employed by the criminals enabled them to inundate victims with deceptive messages, directing them to fake websites that mimicked legitimate online payment or shopping services.

The focal point of the police operation was LabHost, a site that facilitated the scammers’ activities. LabHost provided the means for criminals to send fraudulent messages and gather sensitive identity information, including 480,000 card numbers and 64,000 PIN codes, known in criminal circles as “fullz data.”

While the exact amount of money stolen remains unclear, detectives estimate that LabHost generated nearly £1 million ($1.25 million) in profits.

Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Dame Lynne Owens emphasized the growing threat of fraud, stating, “You are more likely to be a victim of fraud than any other crime.

Our approach is to be more precise and targeted, with a clear focus on those enabling online fraud on an international scale.” Adrian Searle, director of the National Economic Crime Centre, echoed this sentiment, noting that “Technology is enabling crime to be delivered at scale in an almost industrial fashion.”

The successful arrests and shutdown of LabHost were the culmination of a two-year operation involving the Metropolitan Police, the National Crime Agency (NCA), City of London Police, and law enforcement agencies in 17 countries.

In the UK alone, 24 suspects were detained, with notable arrests at Luton and Manchester airports. Globally, authorities searched 70 properties, and a British man has been charged in connection with the scam.

Text messages

In the UK, approximately 70,000 victims are believed to have been duped into providing their personal details online. Of these, around 25,000 have been identified and will receive text messages warning them about the fake online services that may have stolen their money.

Victims will be directed to a Metropolitan Police website for guidance, and their cases have been referred to fraud investigators. Police assure that personal details found in the data obtained from LabHost have been “secured.”

Investigators also seized email addresses of 800 criminals who paid up to £300 a month to use LabHost’s services. These individuals will receive personalized videos informing them that law enforcement is aware of their activities.

This strategy, based on advice from behavioral psychologists, aims to undermine the criminals’ confidence in the security of their operations.

The gang’s activities were initially uncovered in 2022 by the Cyber Defence Alliance, a team of investigators funded by UK financial institutions to infiltrate criminal networks on the dark web.

An alliance official stressed the importance of coordinated efforts to combat such extensive criminal networks, saying, “Unless we build a network to defeat a criminal network, we are going to be overwhelmed.”

This operation represents a new collaborative approach involving police, the NCA, and banking security experts to target criminals providing services to other criminals. It follows the November 2022 takedown of iSpoof, another “crime as a service” operation that facilitated cold-calling victims to defraud them.

Tejay Fletcher, the 35-year-old founder of iSpoof, was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2023 for his role in fraud totaling £100 million.

In February 2024, the NCA also dismantled LockBit, described as “the world’s most harmful cyber-crime group,” which had conducted ransomware attacks costing victims billions of pounds.

These high-profile operations underscore the ongoing efforts to combat sophisticated cybercriminal networks on a global scale.

By admin

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