Spanish National Police have dismantled a cybercrime organization that used fake investment sites to defraud over €12.3 million ($12.8 million) from 300 victims across Europe.
The malicious campaigns involved creating fake cryptocurrency investment sites with a similar appearance to well-known, legitimate platforms.
The threat actors then laundered money stolen from victims by moving it from Spanish banks to foreign financial entities where the criminals hoped it was away from the authorities’ scrutiny or tracing ability.
Spain’s law enforcement investigation was launched after the legal representative of one of the impersonated financial groups reported the case to the police.
During the operation, six members of the cybercrime organization were arrested in Madrid and Barcelona and will face charges of suspected fraud, money laundering, and usurpation of marital status.
The cybercriminals created a network of fake bank websites that used the typosquatting technique, which involves registering domains similar to the official sites of real, impersonated banks.
By changing a character or swapping the position of two letters, the domains may still appear authentic to careless visitors.
Typically, victims end up on these sites by following links embedded in phishing emails, which is how the dismantled Spanish gang also drew traffic to its sites.
While the victims of the threat group originate from several countries in Europe, most of the fake websites targeted French people, and hence they impersonated French financial institutions.
The victims were made to believe they were investing money on these websites, but in reality, their deposits were sent directly to the crime group’s bank accounts.
“The method of defrauding used by the criminal group consisted of offering any potential client, through fraudulent websites, the possibility of carrying out different financial operations, such as: contracting investment products (variable income, futures, and cryptocurrencies) and contracting financing products.” – Spanish Police
The stolen funds were moved to the scammers’ bank accounts in Spain, Portugal, Poland, and France and subsequently moved to foreign entities in a money laundering effort. After bouncing around to obscure the money trace, the funds were eventually returned to Spanish accounts.
The police’s investigation determined the total amount of money sent to the crime group’s final destination was €12,345,731.