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 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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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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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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Dozens of detentions in another coordinated action against capital laundering

With the collaboration of Europol, Eurojust and the European Banking Federation (EBF), police forces from over 20 states arrested some 170 people as part of a coordinated action to combat capital laundering, the EMMA –European Action against Money Mules. The objective of this action, carried out during the last term of 2018, was to address the problem of money mules, which collaborate with criminals to launder millions.

Of the EMMA 2018 results, the following are particularly noteworthy:

  • Over 1,500 money mules were identified in worldwide action against capital laundering.
  • 168 arrests and 140 organisers of money mules were identified.

Over 300 banks, 20 banking associations and other financial entities took part and informed of a total of 26,376 operations of fraudulent mules, helping to avoid the loss of over 36 million Euros. This stresses the importance of a rapid and coordinated response between the police and the banking sector.

Money mules are people who, at times without being aware of it, have been recruited by criminal organisations as money laundering agents to conceal the origin of the damage caused. Motivated by the promise of easy money, the mules transfer the sums stolen between accounts, often in different states, under the name of others, and they generally offer part of the amount that makes its way through their own accounts.

Those most susceptible of committing these crimes would be new arrivals, the unemployed and people with economic difficulties, although recruiters of money mules are increasing pressure on students with economic difficulties.

Money mules are recruited in several ways, but recently criminals increasingly look on social networks to recruit new collaborators, with promises of false job opportunities.

This can appear to be fast and easy money, as only a click is necessary to transfer money from one account to another, but allowing a criminal group to use the bank account of another person can have serious legal consequences.

To inform of this kind of fraud, the awareness-raising campaign #DontBeAMule was developed over the last term of 2018 all over Europe.

With awareness raising material, which can be downloaded in 25 languages, the campaign informed the public about how these criminals work, how to protect oneself and what to do if they become victims.


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Authorities all over the world pursue the biggest DDoS rental website

Coordinated by Europol and the Joint Action Task Force (J-CAT), with the support of the Dutch Police Force and British National Crime Agency, activities worldwide to detect denial-of-service attacks (DDoS) are taking place. It is believed that has been the world’s biggest market to hire DDoS services, collaborating to launch over 4 million attacks at a cost of only 15€ per month.

While some focus their actions specifically on users of, police agencies all over the world have intensified their activities against users of DDoS services in general. For this purpose,  the FBI ,on 15th December, confiscated other DDoS rental websites, including the relatively well-known Downthemi Quantum Stresser. In the same way, the Romanian Police Force has taken measures against administrators of two smaller scale DDoS platforms and has taken advantage of digital evidence including information about users.

The excessive trend in renting DDoS is an urgent issue, mainly because of how accessible it has become. At a nominal rate, any individual with limited qualifications can launch DDoS attacks with the click of a button, eliminating all websites and networks. The damage that can be done to victims can be considerable, stalling companies economically and depriving people of essential services offered by banks, government institutions and police forces.

Feeling brave thanks to a perceived anonymity, many young  new technology enthusiasts get involved in this apparently minor offence, ignoring the consequences that these online activities can cause. Cybercrime is not a crime without victims and is taken very seriously by the police. Side effects that a criminal investigation could have on the lives of these adolescents can be serious, and even amount to a prison sentence in some countries.

The impact of DDoS attacks was recently stressed by the conviction of a 30-year old hacker to almost three years in prison in the United Kingdom after being found guilty of carrying out attacks against a political leader. In November 2016, these DDoS attacks smashed against Internet access, with an attack that caused millions of pounds worth of damage.
In the Netherlands, the police and the prosecutor’s office have developed a project, known as Hack_Right , dedicated to dealing with first-time young offenders in order to prevent them from committing more serious crimes.

Decrypting skills, gambling, computer programming, cyber security or anything related to IT are in great demand and there are many degrees and opportunities available so that they can be used with care.

These actions are implemented within the EMPACT framework. In 2010, the European Union created a four-year political circle to guarantee a better continuity in the fight against international and organised crime. In 2017 the Council of the EU decided to continue the EU political cycle for the 2018-2021period. Its objective is to address the most important threats posed by international organised crime in the EU. This is achieved via the improvement and strengthening of cooperation between the relevant services of the EU member states, institutions and organisms, and also non-community countries and organisations, including the private sector, when it is relevant.


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Environmental security coordination increases all over the world

Interpol and member countries collaborate, as both organisers and participants, in several activities, such as providing support for operations or investigations, with the aim of improving environmental security all over the world.

It has several projects that aim to help the police everywhere with their investigations in this field, with training activities, operational support, information exchange and analysis of criminal information.

Fish capture

Crimes against the environment are carried out in a range of ways:

  • Crimes against wildlife: Interpol participates in specific interventions involving law enforcement, like operationThunderbird, which was designed to increase the effect of sustainability measures and the conservation of wildlife and vegetation.
  • Fishing crimes: operational and investigative activities are coordinated on a world and regional scale, but with a special interest to give support to developing countries in cases of related offences.
  • Forest crimes: training and operational support for organisms responsible for applying the law in countries that import or export wood. The objective is to improve the response of member states to criminals involved in illegal felling and deforestation, as well as tax evasion, corruption, faking documentsand laundering of capital.
  • Contamination and related offences: Interpol emphasises the operation“30 days of action”, developed in the summer of 2017 and focused on illegal dumping and the illegal commerce related to dangerous waste. Information was givenabout 483 people and 264 companies were accused of crimes and offences related to the illegal treatment of waste, and 1.5 million tons of waste were located.

Interpol is part of the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crimes (ICCWC), which aims to reinforce penal justice system sand provide coordinated support on a national, regional and international scale, to combat crime against wildlife and forests.

Concurrently, Interpol can give technical and investigative support in specific cases with investigation support teams. These teams are composed of law-enforcement agents and analysts with specialised knowledge in the forensic, analytical and technical field, and with competences in the world of crime.

It also organises investigation and analysis meetings related to cases so that investigators from different countries and regions can discuss transnational cases of common interest or exchange information.

Finally, the so-called NEST groups –National Environmental Security Teams– are multidisciplinary teams of experts from different national organisms, among these the police, the customs service, ministries responsible for the environment and the prosecutors.

Analysis of criminal information facilitates the decision-making processfor investigators, governing bodies and other interlocutors of law enforcement agencies and guarantees a focus on Police activities based on strategic information.

Related postings


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Urban insecurity rises again in Brazil

Brazil beat its murder record in 2017: 63,880 murders, 175 deaths every day, and 3 % more than the previous year, according to the Brazil Public Security Forum. What underlies this trend? Organised crime is a key factor that causes it to increase.

favelaThe rate of murders in Brazil has risen with the arrival of the world’s biggest drug traffickers: from Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. Brazil is an important consumer of cocaine and crack; it is also a transit country for drugs being transported to Europe and Asia.

A report published by International Institute of Strategic Studies stresses the challenges involved in addressing organised crime to guarantee effective urban security in all cities worldwide, but especially in the “favelas” of Brazil like Maré. This is in Rio de Janeiro, and is one of the biggest favelas, with a total of 130,000 residents. According to Patrícia Vianna, coordinator of the NGO Redes, the number of armed civilians has increased over the last 4 years.

During these 4 years public security in the State of Rio has worsened, coinciding with a political and economic crisis that has affected public policies. Rio’s public administration carried out a “pacifying strategy”. This involved a series of military interventions by military police and the permanent presence of a police pacifying unit. Between 2008 and 2012, this strategy worked quite well to the point that the World Bank regarded is as the best international strategy. But in February 2018, the federal government intervened and temporarily transferred these competences from Rio security institutions to the federal armed forces.
Maré, an overpopulated and extremely impoverished area, has been used as a laboratory for military intervention. Between 2014 and 2015 about 2,500 soldiers patrolled the area; during these years, homicide rates fell sharply (from 21 to 5 per 100,000 inhabitants), according to the Ministry of Defence. However, the problem with this strategy is that it never achieved a solution. “The pacifying strategy” was simply a short-term solution, which avoided addressing the main causes of the problem. Once the military forces left, Maré went back to being an area controlled by criminal factions.
The situation of this favela in Rio is not an isolated problem that is only found in Brazil. As the urban population grows in cities in developing countries in areas like Asia or Africa, situations like the one affecting Rio may increasingly occur.

Links of interest:


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Latest trends in drug trafficking in Europe

On 6th and 7th December 2018, 125 delegates from the member states of the EU, third countries and representatives of 11 international organisations met at the headquarters of Europol for the second annual “Drugs in Europe: a firm legal response” conference. Delegates discussed the latest trends in illegal drug trafficking and agreed on legislative responses to protect the public from the threats linked to illegal drugs.

The number of groups of organised crime and the provision of illegal drugs are increasing. Roughly 35 % of the 5,000 organised crime groups that practise in the EU on an International scale participate in the production, trafficking and distribution of illegal drugs. Organised criminal groups involved in the drug trade are extremely versatile. About 65 % of these simultaneously participate in other criminal activities like the sale of fake products, Money laundering, people trafficking and migrant smuggling. The illegal drugs market is the biggest criminal market in the EU and it is estimated that it generates about 24 mil million euros every year.

During the conference, delegates came to the following conclusions:

  • The number of organised crime groups is increasing as is the provision of illegal drugs. These phenomena constitute a growing threat to security and public health in the European Union and its state members, which have to guarantee suitable resources to combat these.
  • The illegal provision of drugs is a catalyst for high-level organised crime groups. It is the most lucrative part of their activities generating profits that are also related to violence, corruption, Money laundering, the exploitation of people, arms trafficking and other types of serious crime. A coordinated response is necessary on the part of the EU and its member states to the increase in organised crime and drug trafficking.
  • The organised crime groups that pose the greatest risk are increasingly more transnational. They carry out cross-border activities both within and outside the European Union. Police authorities of the member states of the EU need to improve information exchange, operative cooperation and coordination of activities.
  • High-level organised crime groups are changing thanks to their versatility. Their illegal activities are evolving very rapidly. As well as their investigations into illegal activities and commerce, police authorities should centre their operative activities on persons and groups that pose the biggest risk of committing serious organised crime in the EU.
  • Investigations into cross-border drug trafficking and organised crime call for the prompt availability of, among other things, the latest technology.
  • Given that organised crime affects all aspects of society, it is necessary to stress the importance of the development and implementation of global legislation to recover assets in order to effectively avoid these phenomena.
  • To address the challenges caused by the increase in drug trafficking and organised crime, a European Network (informal) has been created by the heads of Central Organised Services and Investigation of Drug-Related Crime in order to improve cooperation at both a tactical and strategic level, to design common actions and pursue a holistic approach.


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