An increase in over-the-telephone fraud

As society evolves, dependence on telecommunications technology is on the increase. Cybernetic criminals take full advantage of electronic devices and continually look for new ways to exploit vulnerabilities and access information. Therefore, cooperation and information exchange between the different police forces and the private sector have become an essential element in the fight against this type of crime.

An example of this collaborationis the joint Cyber-Telecom Crime 2019 report, published byEuropol andTrend Micro. The report offers a general vision of how telecommunications fraud works and serves as a technical guide for groups of interest for the telecommunications industry.

This report reveals that fraud in the field of telecommunications is becoming a low-risk alternative to the traditional financial crime model. Its reduced cost and the increase in the availability of computer piracy teams mean that this type of fraud is on the increase. It is calculated that the cost of fraud in the world of telecommunications is 29,000 million Euros annually.

The main objective of criminals is to access customer or company accounts, where the debt can be generated in the criminal’s favour.
The most common methods can be divided into different categories that range from fraud to highly sophisticated scams:

Vishingcalls–a combination of the words Voice and Phishing–is a telephone scam involving fraudsters deceiving victims into giving their personal, financial and security information or simply forcing them to transfer money to them.

A ring or JapanesWangiri is a telephone scam where criminals deceive victims by dialling special rate numbers. A fraudster sets up a system to dial a long list of random telephone numbers. Each call rings only once and is then hung up, leaving the lost call on the potential victims’ telephones. Often, users see a lost call and, thinking that it is valid, call the number at the fraudulent rate.

– International fraud for the distribution of income has been the most damaging fraud scheme to date. This involves transferring the monetary value of one operator to another, based on trust between telecommunications operators. Fraudsters wait for for records to expire before taking other steps to launder money.

The work team Europol EC3 CyTel, created in 2018, brings together over 70 police experts and global members of the telecommunications industry, with the aim of sharing information, knowledge and experiences and the necessary techniques to combat this type of fraud.


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The Chicago police force uses computer algorithms to assess the risk of a threat

Could a computer predict violence? In Chicago, Illinois, an algorithm assesses everyone arrested by the police with a score of between 1 and 500. The process has been carried out for four years, and almost 400,000 Chicago citizens now have an official risk score for the police authorities.

This algorithm questioned by the law teacher of Columbia University, Andrew Guthrie Ferguson – the method has still not been made public – is part of a police strategy and may change street investigations. It may also mean a police-related big data in the US, depending on how it is perceived, whether it is an innovative focus for the reduction of violence or as an example of data-based social control.

In effect, the personalised threat score is shown automatically on police computer screens so that the officer can know the relative risk involved in stopping a suspect. The predictive score also who a proactive police intervention is aimed at. These interventions may range from a visit to a home carried out by police officers, to an extra police surveillance or a community meeting, and will transmit the same clear message: the police are watching you.

And while Chicago is at the forefront of predictive surveillance, it is not the only city. Other cities like New York and Los Angeles are thinking of a way to use the police-related big data to guide interventions involving risky individuals.

Predictive control based on people began in 2009 as an attempt to apply a public health focus on violence. The key is to identify predictive risk factors and try to resolve the underlying environmental causes. Chicago investigators developed an algorithm so that the police could give priority to those individuals with the highest risk score by analysing: past arrests for violent crime, weapon or narcotic-related crime, age when most recently arrested (the younger, the higher the score), incidents where the individual was the victim of an assault and criminal activity trend (whether this is increasing or decreasing). A computer then classifies the variables and writes a relative threat score to determine the probability of firearm use.

The police state that the guidance system points out the high percentage of victims of gunshots that could be predicted with precision. Critics have pointed out that the objective is excessive and ineffective, including dozens of thousands of people with high scores, but with no previous record of arrest for violent crime.

It is thought to be worrying that the threat score affects the equity of interaction between the police and people in the street. High-risk scores guide strategies to stop violence, which influence police contacts and those under closest surveillance. But threat scores also distort everyday police decisions about the use of force and reasonable suspicion. After all, once the police has the information that a person has a high threat score, this knowledge will increase crime-related suspicion and will increase the perceived danger, causing more frequent and aggressive interactions with people that the algorithm considers to be “high risk”.

This bias can also jeopardise the system. As described by the investigation by the Division of Civil Rights of the Department of Justice in 2017 of the Chicago Police Department, racial discrimination patterns continue to be a real problem. While one could expect the justice algorithm to avoid human bias, the reality is that these insertions (especially arrests) are affected by discretional decisions by all police officers as they patrol or investigate the suspect of a crime. Therefore, although the mathematics of big data may be “objective”, entries are not exempt of human bias, thereby distorting the final results.

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The European Union prepares for possible large-scale cyber attacks

It is no longer unthinkable for a large-scale cyber attack to have serious repercussions on the physical world, paralysing an entire sector or certain sections of society. To prepare for the main cross-border cyber attacks, the European Council has adopted a response protocol to address emergencies in the European Union. This Protocol assigns a central role to the European Cyber Crime Centre(EC3) and is part of the EU plan to provide a coordinated response to incidents and large-scale cross-border cyber security crises.

This Protocol serves as a tool to provide support to police authorities in the EU when giving an immediate response to the main cross-border cybernetic attacks, with a rapid assessment, safe and timely sharing of high-value information and effective coordination of international aspects of investigations.

In 2017, cybernetic attacks without precedent from WannaCry and NotPetya stressed to what point responses caused by incidents and reactions were not enough to effectively address the cyber criminal modus operandi that is evolving very quickly.

The response Protocol to European Union emergencies determines procedures, roles and responsibilities of key actors within the EU and beyond: secure channels of communication and points of contact 24 hours for the exchange of vital information, and with general coordination.

The Protocol details the complementing of current mechanisms for crisis management in the EU with the rationalising of transnational activities and facilitating collaboration with the pertinent European and international actors, taking full advantage of Europol resources. Moreover, it facilitates collaboration with the web and information security community and members of the relevant private sectors.

Only cybernetic security events of a suspicious and criminal nature are within the scope of the Protocol; it does not include incidents or crises caused by a natural disaster, a mistake caused by man or a failure in the system. Therefore, in order to determine the criminal nature of the attack, it is vital that the first reactions involves all the necessary measures to preserve electronic tests that could be found in the computer systems affected by the attack, which are essential for any penal investigation or legal proceeding.

Being an Agency of the EU for cooperation in police matters, Europol is obliged to provide support for member states in order to effectively detect, investigate, interrupt and deter large-scale cyber crime, if it appears to be of a criminal nature.


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How do we know how many children are part of gangs in England?

Gangland activity in England often happens under the radar of the authorities, although defining what we understand to be a gang is not simple.

A report estimates that there are currently 27,000 children of both sexes that are part of gangs in England.

But how was such a figure reached?

Every year, the UK National Statistics Office carries out a crime survey by elaborating a representative sample of homes and their experience of the crime scene. Over the last three years, children between the ages of 10 to 15 have been asked if they regarded themselves to be members of a street gang.

The commissioner’s office for children in England made its own calculations with these figures.

Last year, a sample of some 4,000 children, 0.7% (about 30 children) said that they considered themselves to be members of street gangs. This figure was expanded to give an estimated figure of 27,000 all over England last year.

This is an estimate, but the report offers a much lower figure of 6,560 children properly known by teams that deal with child services, for participating in gangs.

The report concludes that the difference between the highest figure and the lowest is that most gang members are known to the authorities.

There is a lack of knowledge at the moment, but there is likely to be a high number of young people who participate in gangs that are unknown to the authorities, although there may be as many as 27,000 children who are involved in gangs.

As these figures come from a custom-made analysis, there is no comparable individual data with gang violence and criminal activities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

But in London, the Metropolitan Police keeps a database known as the Gangs Matrix, which contains names of between 3,000 and 4,000 “persons of interest”.
The database has been criticised because of its disproportionate orientation towards young blacks that may have links with violent crime.
In 2017, when the latest time crime estimations were published, one of every 500 violent crimes recorded by the London police force was identified as being related to gangs. Since 2010, 15% of homicides in the capital have been related to gangs.

There has also been an increase in concern about children of both sexes that are exploited by drug gangs.

Bearing in mind the illegal nature of operations in the field of narcotics, the total participation is difficult to know, but most references received by the National Crime Agency affect minors of between 15 and 17 years of age.


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RAND Europe is studying violence and riots at international sports events

Anti-social behaviour at football matches is a well-known problem everywhere. The police, football associations and governments have used many interventions and strategies aimed at anticipating and responding to such problematic behaviour. Regarding two international sports events in Qatar: the 2019 World Athletics Championship and the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the University of Qatar commissioned a report from RAND Europe about violence and disturbances at international sports events.

The objective of the study was to understand the nature and factors associated with antisocial and violent behaviour at football matches and examine the effectiveness of existing approaches to anticipate and respond to such behaviour.

Football supportersThe influence of alcohol, sports rivalries, spatial factors, socio-political factors, psychological factors, situational factors and reactions to the game are factors that lead to violent and antisocial behaviour. However, these factors usually interact and there is never only one factor involved.

Police approaches aimed at establishing dialogue and positive lines of communication with fans seem to be promising. Some studies found that policing methods that tried to maintain a rapport of mutual respect between fans and the police were effective. Nevertheless, the tests presented in the case study of violence at the EUFA European Championship in 2016 suggest that police forces also need a series of tactics, require sufficient resources and need to be prepared to increase the response to the situation if so requires.

The Crowd Behaviour Model (CBM) can capture complex cultural, individual and environmental differences in the way people move in an area to be able to predict how crowds behave. CBM is more effective when it is collaborative and interactive among experts that define a model, the customer and the pertinent parts, such as stadium security officials.

A case study of the role of volunteers at major sports events found that volunteers play an important role in maintaining public security by supporting the spectator’s positive behaviour during important sports events.

Although there is no one factor alone that causes crowd disturbances in the world of football, evidence suggests that some interventions may be effective to anticipate and respond to violent and antisocial behaviour. This means that host nations should be able to take practical measures to minimise the possibility of disturbances during a tournament. Investigations suggest that disruptive behaviour increases with out-of-proportion or inconsistent security and surveillance tactics, queues and delays when at the entrance to stadiums, hinder the movement of fans.

There is a range of promising practices that event organisers can consider. Regarding surveillance tactics, experience shows that low-intensity policing is associated with more peaceful crowds. These approaches are based on the creation of relations with fans and the sharing of intelligence and cooperation between police agencies from different countries, both before and during the event.


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Europol coordinates an operation against international and illegal trafficking of medication

MedicamentsAn operation carried out by police authorities, the customs and the healthcare community of 16 European countries has meant the apprehension of over 13 million medical doses, with a market valueof over 165 million Euros.

These confiscations are part of the coordinated operation carried out by Europol MISMED 2 against the illegal trafficking of medication across Europe.

The operation directed by the Gendarmerie Française and the Finnish Tulli (customs), with the support of the Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition(IPC3), MISMED 2 carried out  435 arrests and confiscated articles with an approximate value of 168 million Euros , including 13 million units and 1.8 tons of medication. 24 organised criminal groups were intervened and criminal assets with a value of 3.2 million Euros were retrieved.

These joint actions were carried out over seven months (April-October 2018).

Since the operation began last year, the number of countries that participated in MISMED grew substantially, reflecting the growing commitment of many states to address this threat. With this operation, 7 new countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Lithuania, Portugal, Serbia andthe Ukraine) have joined the new EU member states (Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Romania, Spain and theUnited Kingdom).

Misuse of certain medication is a serious and growing problem to be addressed at a European level. Organised criminal groups increasingly engage in this field of crime, as it provides very significant profits for the authors and the risks are relatively low regarding detection and associated penal sanctions.

The latest investigations revealed that trafficking not only involves opioid medication, as it also includes pharmaceutical products used in the treatment of serious illnesses, such as cancer and heart conditions, as well as drugs to enhance performance and image. The number of falsified products on the market is also on the increase, as displayed by the number of medications intervened in the 2018 MISMED edition, representing over half of the 13 million units confiscated.


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What works and what doesn’t: helping the police to find the best strategy

According to what was published by the Rand corporation, the so-called focused deterrent is not new, as it was initiated by the Boston police force in the mid-90s by the pioneering Operation Cessos, which was aimed at chronic violent offenders and involved activities to help to reduce the city’s murder rate.As part of the focused deterrent, the police intervened high-risk groups and individuals in order to prevent future violence.

Key strategic steps of the focused deterrent

1Identify high-risk criminals, a process that involves community leaders and frontline police officers.
2 Have a communication meeting; explain why the intervention is taking place; and involving social services, families and members of the community.
3Provide services for those who wish to change their behaviour.
4Provide support for community members.
5 Creationof rapid and proportional sanctions for those who continue to be involved in violent crime.

In the United States there are over 18,000 police agencies. There is no database nor a sole objective source that shows what works better and how to apply it.

Bearing in mind that evidence shows that the focused deterrent is successful, why isn’t it used in more police departments?

This is when the RAND Tool Guide Better Policing is introduced. It is designed to help police agencies to find and learn about effective police strategies and apply them.

The set of tools could be a valuable resource for the police in a climate involving police strategies being more necessary than ever.

Feedback of the strategies

The set of tools specifies three very effective surveillance strategies. The first focused deterrent helps those with a high risk of participating in violence; the second, the police service aimed at problem solving, which addresses problems taking place in specific places; and the third, surveillance of legitimacy, is centred on community trust. The tool kit is also linked to a previous guide from the Department of Justice that describes the best practices to resolve homicides and other serious crimes.

The most effective police strategies in the Better Policing tool kit:

Focused deterrent
Intervene high-risk people and groups

Problem oriented policing
Address crimes in risky places

Legitimacy policy
Focus on relations with the community and elicit trust


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Cross-border cooperation against international drug trafficking

The National Polish Police Investigation Centre, with the help of the Dutch Police Force and the German Police Force, have identified and closed an important supplier of chemical products intended to manufacture synthetic drugs in the Netherlands.

The cross-border operation, executed thanks to cooperation between the different police forces, was able to intervene tons of chemical products, arrested members of a centre producing medication and closed laboratories producing medicine. Over 300 police officers participated in a day of joint action planned with the support of Europol.

From the start of the investigations, Europol helped Germany, the Netherlands and Poland with their enquiries, while providing analytical and specialised support, as well as organising operational meetings.

The Netherlands police force carried out searches in 17 different localities, arresting seven suspects and closing equipment in three laboratories. They also intervened: over 100 kg MDMA crystals, a dozen or so litres of MDMA compound, 1,000 litres of BMK and 30 litres of PMK (precursors of amphetamines), 67 tons of different non-programmed chemical substances, 4 weapons ready for use and numerous stolen vehicles.

In Poland, the police arrested 8 suspects and confiscated 17 tons of chemical products and 4 kg of amphetamine paste. In Germany, 7 tons of chemical products intended to manufacture synthetic drugs were also confiscated. Some of the codified telephones used by traffickers were also confiscated to continue investigating without ruling out further detentions.

The Polish police had been gathering information about drug traffickers since 2016. During the investigation it was discovered that traffickers were transporting about two tons of chemical products from Poland to different addresses in the south of the Netherlands up to three times a week, to places where synthetic drugs were being produced illegally.

The suspects acquired chemical products legally, like sodium hydroxide, formic acid, phosphate and acetone in Poland. These chemical products can be used for the illegal production of amphetamines, MDMA and methamphetamine. Then, they acquired additional chemical products and stored them temporarily in  Germany.

In April 2018, after a long investigation and the gathering of evidence against the organised crime group mainly active in the Netherlands, Poland and (to a lesser extent) in Germany, the joint police operation was launched. The Dutch, German and Polish police forces carried out searches simultaneously in identified locations, and detained traffickers in the respective countries.

Europol provided direct support to dismantle one of the illegal laboratories discovered in the Netherlands, and also analytical support with a mobile office in Poland.


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International operation against the sale of counterfeit goods on Internet

As part of an international operation, the Coalition coordinated by the crime against intellectual property department of Europol (IPC3) confiscated 33,654 names of domains that distribute pirate and falsified online articles.

The websites distribute different product typologies, such as falsified pharmaceutical products, pirate films, television programmes, music, programmes, electronic goods and other fake products. The joint international operation also included the Centre of Coordination of Rights to Intellectual Property in the United States and police authorities from 26 countries, including member states of the EU and third countries, all coordinated by INTERPOL.

• Countries both within the EU and beyond worked together to intervene domains that sold false products.
• Twelve suspects were arrested and accounts with an estimated value of 1 million Euros were intervened.
• The iOS operation, now in its ninth year, was the most successful edition.
The iOS operation is a continuation of a joint global recurring operation, which was launched in 2014 and which, since that time, has greatly increased year after year.

The ninth edition of this worldwide operation in 2018 saw an even larger number of associations involved in combating fake goods, representing owners and police chiefs that participated to facilitate international cooperation and provide support for countries involved in this initiative. This year’s IOS IX operation has experienced a noteworthy increase in comparison with the previous edition, in which 20,520 domain names that sold illegal goods unlawfully online were confiscated.

This is the result of the global focus of Europol to make Internet a more secure place for consumers, and encourage more countries and members of the private sector to participate in this operation and provide references.

As well as the domain names intervened, officials also arrested 12 suspects, blocked operational devices, identified and froze over 1 million Euros in several bank accounts, online payment platforms and a virtual currency bank used by organised crime groups.

Europol, in cooperation with European Union Intellectual Property Office(EUIPO), continues to improve its efforts giving successful support to many top priority investigations related to online crime, providing training related to online investigations and organising lectures about crime against intellectual property.

To continually provide awareness of this growing threat, Europol’s IPC3 launched the campaign Do not F *** (ake) Up”. The campaign informs citizens of the risks of buying fake online products and provides direct advice to help to identify illegal websites that sell counterfeit articles, as well as other means used by counterfeiters, like false social media accounts and false applications.


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