The police first started to investigate in 2018. / sur

Thirteen people arrested in Spain for defrauding nearly 500,000 euros through phishing scams

After obtaining access to the bank accounts of their 146 victims they were able to use them to make purchases online, transfer cash and apply for personal loans

E.P. Madrid

Spanish police have arrested 13 people for allegedly stealing 443,600 euros from 146 victims, using a well-known bank fraud scam known as phishing. Seven of the arrests took place in Andalucía.

The criminals would send fake emails in the name of a bank, warning people of a security alert regarding their account. There was a link included in the email and if those who received an email clicked on it, thinking they were responding to a genuine message from their bank, they were directed to a false website which was controlled by the organisation. These websites were often updated so they resembled the authentic pages as much as possible.

When they had obtained their victims’ bank details, the thieves were able to use them to make purchases online, transfer cash and apply for personal loans. They would change the mobile phone number the legitimate client had registered with the bank to one they controlled, so they could receive text messages with the codes they needed to finalise the banking transactions.

Internet networks in different countries

The organisation accessed the bank accounts by using Internet networks located in different countries, such as Spain, Morocco, France, the USA, Mauritania and Germany, using virtual private networks (VPN). This was to make it more difficult to locate the place from which they were carrying out the fraudulent operations and sending the emails.

They would also shop online using retailers in other countries, with France a firm favourite. That meant the victims and the banks were in Spain but the transaction took place in France so the company affected by the credit card fraud was in another country.

The first clues were detected at the end of 2018 when the police received numerous reports from individuals and banks all over the country about fraudulent operations online, bank transfers and applications for bank loans.

Dating sites

The money was also moved about via different bank accounts, arranged through dating sites. People on those sites were fooled into believing they had found someone with whom to have a genuine relationship and, following instructions from the organisation, would send money through transfer agencies to the Ivory Coast, as a way of circumventing legal controls.