Seven fraudulent ways of making money disappear

The Europol Cyber Crime Centre (EC3), the European Banking Federation and their members from the public and private sector have disseminated an awareness-raising campaign related to the seven most common online financial swindles. The campaign, called #CyberScams, was done last October within the framework of the European Month of Cybernetic Security and promotes cybernetic security for citizens and organisations, putting the stress on simple steps to protect personal, financial and professional data.

Police forces from 28 EU member states, from five non-member states of the EU, of 24 national bank associations and banks and many other investigators against cybercrime want to heighten the public’s awareness of this criminal phenomenon. This pan-European effort promoted was pushed forward by a communication campaign via social channels and the application of national laws, banking associations and financial institutions.

Following the recommendations of the IOCTA 2018, the most effective defence against social engineering is the education of potential victims that could be any of us when we are on line. Making the public aware of how to identify these deceptive techniques can provide us with both personal and financial security online.

For this campaign, the support material,  which includes information concerning the 7 most common online financial scams and how to avoid them, has been done in 27 different languages and is available to be downloaded by the public:

  • CEO fraud: the swindlers pretend to be your CEO or a senior representative of the organisation and invite you to pay a false bill or make a non-authorised transfer from your current account.
  • Invoice fraud: they pretend to be one of your clients or suppliers and they deceive you into paying future bills into a different bank account.
  • Phishing / smishing / vishing: they tell you or send you a text message or email to cheat you into sharing your personal, financial or security information.
  • Fraudulent use of bank webpages: they use bank phishing emails with a falsified web link. Once you click on the link, a range of methods are used to gather your personal and financial information. The site looks like the legitimate page, with minimal differences.
  • Romantic scam: they pretend to be interested in a romantic relationship. This usually happens on online dating websites, but the fraudsters often use social networks or email to make contact.
  • Theft of personal details: they gather your personal information via social network channels.
  • Investments and swindles involving online purchases: they make you think that you are an intelligent investment or present you with a great but false online offer.

Internet has become very attractive to cybercriminals. Attackers use sophisticated tricks and promises to make money or to obtain valuable financial information. Swindles involving a lost family member or Nigerian princes are not the only tricks any more. The tactics used by cybercriminals are getting more innovative and increasingly difficult to detect. From pretending to be the CEO of your organisation and pretending to have a romantic interest, today’s swindlers will do whatever it takes to get what they want: your money and your bank credentials.

Social engineering continues to grow as the driving force of many cybernetic crimes, with phishing being the most frequent form. Criminals use them to meet a range of objectives: to obtain your personal data, seize your accounts, steel your identity, begin illegal payments or persuade you to continue with any other activity against your interests, like transferring money or sharing personal data. One simple click could be enough to compromise your entire organisation.


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The European Commission asks for a step forwards in terms of security

Until the beginning of October 2018, a range of legislative proposals presented by the Commission have been passed, but many important files that should be processed before the European Parliament elections in May 2019 are still due. The Commission therefore asks for such tasks to be accelerated and for all pending security-related projects to be adopted quickly. In particular, the one that is defined by the joint Declaration and the new measures proposed by President Juncker in his speech on the state of the Union in 2018.

Over the last three years, the Commission has adopted measures to reinforce the security of the EU and its external borders. Attempts at terrorist attacks, the use of chemical weapons in the streets of a member state and, more recently, the cyber attack that was aborted in the headquarters of an international organisation reveal that Europe is still an objective and, therefore, security and collective resilience must be improved. It is therefore necessary to gain an insight into the following aspects:

  • Protect Europeans on the network. Bearing in mind the latest hostile cybernetic operations, it is vital that all legislative proposals are given full priority. Moreover, in order to ensure that Internet platforms are not used to disseminate online terrorist content, the European Parliament must approve the obligation to suppress content of this kind within an hour.
  • Inter-operability of EU information systems: it is necessary to allow EU information systems in terms of security, migration and border administration to work together efficiently and thereby improve the security of information. It is also necessary to modernise the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS), Eurodac and the Visa information System (VIS).
  • The fight against cross-border crime: the commission urges the European Council and the Parliament to broaden the functions of the European Prosecutor so that it can facilitate the investigation of cross-border crime and supports Commission proposals related to electronic proof, in order to help both the police and judicial authorities.
  • To reinforce borders: there is a request to approve the necessary tools to guarantee the effective management of external borders, as with the European Border and Coastguard Agency, EU return-related regulations and the European Asylum Support Office.

To support the efforts of the member states with the aim of improving EU security, the Commission assigned security finance amounting to 70 million Euros for the 2018-2019 period, distributed in the following way:

  • The fight against radicalisation: 5 million Euros.
  • The fight against QBRN threats, restricting access to home-made explosives and the protection of public areas and critical infrastructures: 9.5 million Euros.
  • Support for the application of current norms of the European register of names of passengers: 1.5 million Euros.
  • 100 million Euros for Innovative Urban Actions such as, for example, the protection of public areas.

Links of interest:


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Europol is working to avoid victims of flight ticket fraud

Between the 18th and  22nd June 2018, 61 countries, 69 airlines, 226 airports and 6 online travel agencies participated in the 11th edition of the Global accessibility awareness day(GAAD), focusing on criminals suspected of travelling with plane tickets purchased using stolen, copied or false credit cards. 334 suspicious transactions were informed of and several investigations started. 141 people were arrested.

The Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that the airline industry loses over a thousand million dollars annually as a result of fraudulent online plane ticket purchases. Moreover, millions of innocent people are affected by the improper use of their credit card data.

Online fraudulent transactions are not only highly lucrative for organised crime, they are also often used to facilitate more serious criminal activities, like illegal immigration, people trafficking, drug smuggling and terrorism.

Eurojust collaborated throughout the week of action, along with the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), which deployed officials in 22 airports. The airport communication project (AIRCOP), implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime(UNODC), in collaboration with Interpol and the World Customs Association (WCA), also developed activities to apply the law in airports in Africa and the Middle East.

How to avoid airline fraud

Here is some advice from the Europol to avoid becoming the next victim of a too-good-to-be-true holiday package.

  • Purchase from official sources

Reserve your holidays directly with an airline or hotel, or via a reputed agent or tour operator. Look for the IATA logo on the company’s website.

  • Do your own search

Do a complete online search to guarantee that the company is legitimate. If it is suspicious, other people may have published their experiences to warn others.

  • Surf safely online

Pay special attention to the name and domain of the website. Small changes in the name or the domain, like a change from .com to .eu, may redirect you to a completely different company.

  • Pay safely

Make sure that the website uses a secure payment system and that the payment protocol is also secure (https) in order to make the payment.

  • Check the small print

Check that the webpage includes terms and conditions, a refund policy and a privacy policy.

  • Use your instinct

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

  • Keep all proof and inform the police immediately.


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Canada, the second country in the world to legalise cannabis

On 17 October 2018 the law passed by the Canadian senate(52 votes in favour, 29 against and 2 abstentions) in June this year came into force, that officialises the legalisation of the sale, consumption, cultivation and possession of marihuana for recreational purposes in Canada (Cannabis Act, 2018). The use of marihuana for medicinal purposes was authorised in 2001. The initiative was part of the electoral programme of the current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, of Canada’s Liberal Party, the same one that legalised gay marriage in the country in 2005.

Canada is the first country of the G20 that has taken this step (in the United States, it is only legal in 9 of the states and in the city of Washington) and the second in the world, a little over a year after Uruguay applied the initiative driven forward by ex-president José Mujica to legalise the consumption and purchase of marihuana by Uruguayan citizens (Law nº 19.172, 2013).

The purchase, sale and possession of cannabis cannot involve more than 30 grams (Cannabis Act, article 8, 2018). Besides, the minimum age permitted to acquire and consume cannabis is regulated in a provincial context: in all provinces, the legal age to buy and consume cannabis is 19, with the exception of Quebec and Alberta, where it is 18. The minimum age to consume marihuana coincides with the one to drink alcohol and all provinces except Manitoba, where the legal age for the consumption of alcohol is 18. Regarding places where consumption is permitted, in some provinces marihuana can be smoked in the same places where cigarettes can be smoked, and in others, it is limited to private areas.

Another regulation that is also delegated to provincial authorities is the one related to sale and distribution permits (Cannabis Act, article 69, 2018): in general, they are private companies authorised by a provincial authority licenced to cultivate and distribute cannabis, except in some provinces, where a public company is responsible for marketing the substance.

According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, the objectives of the new law are mainly the following:

  • Stop Young people from having access to cannabis.
  • Protect public health and security by guaranteeing the quality of cannabis.
  • Deter criminal activity by imposing legal sanctions on those who operate outside the legal framework.
  • Reduce the amount of crime related to cannabis in the penal justice system.

Although the authorities predict that the price will be 25% higher than on the black market (about 10 Canadian dollars, equivalent to 6.7 euros), the quality will be better, which is expected to encourage consumers to acquire cannabis via legal channels. The money raised with the tax charged for cannabis will be shared between provincial (75%) and federal (25%) treasuries.

Meanwhile, with the coming into force of the Cannabis Act, a pardon is expected to be given to all those sentenced for marihuana possession -hundreds of thousands of people-, as long the amount is no more than 30 grams. This measure will mean that those sentenced for possession of marihuana will no longer be banned from entering the United States, as is the case now.

The case of Canada will be closely followed by the rest of the world, as it is the first economic power to end the prohibition of the sale and consumption of marihuana for recreational purposes. This example will surely serve to elicit debate in many other G20 countries, and the results will encourage or discourage the promotion of similar laws in other states.

For further information, you can consult the following links:


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#BuySafePaySafe: how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud when making card payments

Police operations against fraud with card payments are continuously taking place, even on a large scale, like that coordinated by Europol this last summer that led to 95 arrests in a joint operation involving 28 countries

Investigative measures are very complex because of the virtual and international dimension of such crime. Not only individual fraudsters but also organised crime groups are involved in this phenomenon. There are indications of professionalism and links to other criminal formats like phishing, malware attacks, the creation of web pages and the use of social network platforms to commit fraud.

Currently, approximately 80% of credit card fraud is done online. Social networks are used to create sales profiles (shops), publishing everything at half price. When something is ordered, the fraudsters make the purchases, often very expensive ones, with subtracted credit card data. The data of the stolen card is often bought on the dark net, originally filtered via data theft and with malware. When making these purchases on their web pages, victims cannot be aware that the data of their cards is also being stolen, to go on to be stolen by a seller on another criminal forum. The previously mentioned sellers tend to have tens of thousands of happy customers and receive great reviews. In the end, the banks and dealers are the ones who suffer the losses due to such fraudulent activities, which amount to thousands of millions of Euros worldwide.

The eComm 2018-Europol is an operation created as part of the fight against payment card fraud EMPACT (PCF) directed by Austria. This operation is a practical continuation of the e-commerce work group, a private-public association network established in 2014 with key actors, including the Market Risk Council (MRC) – a network of 490 electronic dealers worldwide -.E-Commerce: tips and advice to avoid becoming a fraud victim.

Some preventive advice

It is always better to avoid a crime. It is for this reason that this operational action is followed by a prevention and awareness raising campaign, #BuySafePaySafe. There are a series of security norms that can be followed to avoid being a victim of such fraud:

  • ensure that the device you use to make online purchases is well-configured and that the Internet connection is secure.
  • using a card is a secure payment method for online purchases as long as you take the same care as with other purchases
  • there are simple warning signs that can help to identify fraud. If you are a victim of online fraud, report it to the police. If you have bought the product with a credit or debit card, also inform your bank
  • Regularly review your online bank account. Immediately notify your bank if you see payments or withdrawals that you have not made.


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Situation and trends in the penitentiary field in the world in 2018

The report Global Prison Trends 2018 is the fourth edition of an annual study that has been elaborated with the support of the Thailand Institute of Justice and the Penal Reform International(PRI).

Penal Reform International is a non-governmental and independent organisation that develops and promotes effective and proportionate responses to criminal justice around the world.

For example, the PRI defends the use of measures and sanctions without deprivation of liberty, a method that has expanded over recent years. This way, with alternative measures to prison, the overcrowding of centres can be reduced, especially in the case of sentences for non-violent acts or drug-related low-level offences.

For another year, the report explains that the prison situation in the world is, in general, very bad because of the degradation of conditions and the growing number of people in prison. It is for this reason that a list of recommendations has been elaborated for states and their penitentiary policies:

  • States should introduce new legislation to reduce prison rates, focussing on priorities related to measures to prevent crime, alternatives to prison and rehabilitation.
  • It is necessary to implement strategies to address the overpopulation of prisons by extending the use of alternatives to prison and fight for the reduction of poverty and inequality.
  • States should abide by, respect and the protect human rights and the procedural safeguards of those detained. This way, mistreatment and torture would be avoided.
  • Preventive prison should only be used as a last resort, and should bear in mind thepresumption of innocence and the principles of need and proportionality.
  • Monetary bale policies should be revised to ensure that people with limited resources are not discriminated against.
  • Sentencing should be guided by international law, including the UN agreements of Tokyo and Bangkok.
  • States should reduce the use of the life sentence. Life sentences without the option of parole should be abolished.
  • The living conditions of prisoners sentenced must correspond to the norms established by the so-called “Rules” of Nelson Mandela.
  • States that still apply the death penalty should move to abolish it, establishing a moratorium as a first step towards its extinction.
  • States should revise their policies related to drugs. It is necessary to decriminalise minor offences and apply proportional sentences.
  • The imprisoning of children should be a last resort, and the death penalty and life sentences should be prohibited in the case of minors.
  • States should adopt justice and protection policies and systems for children to address violence and mistreatment.
  • The UN Bangkok norms must provide guidance for states in penal justice reform in order to guarantee that systems meet the needs of imprisoned women.
  • The sentencing of women should bear in mind any victimisation, child-care responsibilities and the context of the criminal conduct, potentiating reclusion-free sanctions.


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Interpol Stadia project: providing security for great sporting events

The major international sporting events, such as the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup competitions, set many police and security-related challenges for host countries.

Apart from taking place in large, complex and scattered venues, these events can attract a range of criminal activities, from skirmishes and violence to cyber attacks and even terrorism.

With its global network of experts, Interpol is in an ideal position to serve as a central core to provide research, design, planning, coordination and training to address this challenge, within a structure that ensures certain standards of quality.

The Stadia project was founded by Interpol in 2012 and financed by Qatar, with the aim of creating a centre of excellence to help Interpol member states to plan and execute security preparation measures for major sporting events.

By combining good practices and lessons learned by member countries that have hosted major international sports events, the project can help future hosts to improve preparation measures thanks to the latest knowledge and experience.

The Stadia project organises annual meetings of experts about key issues concerning legislation, physical security and cybernetic security.

These meetings gather together police experts from all over the world, events organisation committees, government, the private sector, the academy and civil society to explore cutting-edge research and analysis and develop independent recommendations to plan and execute security arrangements for major international sporting events.

All countries that host an important sporting event want to avoid problems and be successful. Every event offers many valuable lessons, not only for the host, but also for anyone wishing to host important events in the future.

To gather good practices and lessons learned before, during and after major international sports events, the Stadia project carries out observation programmes and debates with experts from the security field, both within the public sector and the private one, that have direct responsibilities in surveillance and security operations.

The Stadia project works with recognised academic institutions to identify training needs and develop training study plans, along with a programme with international accreditation.

The accumulated learning based on a range of activities previously described is consolidated and is shared among countries that are members of Interpol via a system of knowledge based on a latest generation website with two components:

  • A broad repository of knowledge of good practice in all aspects of security of the sporting event, to which all member countries can contribute and all of which can benefit from.
  • An online collaboration platform where experts in the field can share, debate, analyse and publish information about evolutionary aspects of sports-related security regarding important events.


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California wants to control the sale of munition to combat armed violence

The citizens of the United States of America have the right to possess firearms in accordance with the second amendment of the American Constitution of 1789, and it was not until the federal firearms control law in 1968, after the assassination of Martin Luther King, that the minimum age for firearm possession was raised to 21 years of age.

The sale of firearms has a specific regulation and, depending on the state, the norms can be more or less permissive. Despite this, acquiring munition is quite easy in the United States in general, as manifested by the states that have provided the chance to purchase in non-specialised establishments. In the state of Georgia, munition can be bought in pharmacies; in the state of Pennsylvania, it can bought in self-service vending machines and, in the state of Texas, in jeweller’s shops.

California is now one of the states with restrictive regulations regarding the sale of firearms in the USA. However, it has taken a step further with the control of the sale of munition. Habitually, regulations concerning the sale of munition are not as strict as those regarding the acquisition of firearms; for example, there is no minimum age in a federal context to be able to buy bullets. But in California being able to buy munition has become complicated in order to combat armed crime via local legislation.

Since the approval of proposal 63, voted by the citizenship, bullets can only be bought in armouries authorised by the Department of Justice. Those buying weapons and munition in California have to identify themselves with a digital print in specialised stores. This new regulation imposes controls on those who wish to obtain munition by purchasing it in other states, which must be done in armouries, which will check for any criminal record. Even sales via Internet have been restricted and it cannot be sent directly to the home, as it must be sent to authorised establishments.

Authorised distributors of munition are obliged to keep a record of all bullet sales throughout the state of California from the start of 2019.

Opponents of these measures, a noteworthy one of these being the National Rifle Association, criticise such measures because of the increase in administration costs due to the application of the measure, and because of the difficulty that non-dangerous people have to obtain weapons.


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“Nadia”: The theatre as a weapon to combat radicalisation among the young

Nadia - Théâtre de LiègeA play written by the Dutch playwright Daniël Van Klaveren, tells the story of two fifteen-year old adolescent girls who, like other girls of their age, spend much of their time connected to Internet. One of them, Nadia, is seduced by the rhetoric of a Daesh lieutenant and begins a process of personal transformation that causes confrontation with her best friend. The play depicts the last days of Nadia’s life before leaving for the Caliphate.

The actors go to secondary schools to tell this story with the aim of making young people aware of the dangers underlying radicalisation and a loss of identity and about the challenges involved in finding an identity.

“Nadia” is the result of a theatre collaboration project involving five European companies[1]. This show, with different versions, was premiered in several European cities throughout 2017. It is a pedagogical collaborative experience that allows young Europeans to connect online to together explore radicalisation processes, social injustice, the feeling of belonging and what being young means in contemporary society.

The city of Liege participated in this pedagogical initiative of an artistic nature via the Theatre of Liege. Other pedagogical activities especially aimed at the young community in this city are:

  • The animated film “TORU” conceived and made by adolescents to arouse critical reflection, freedom of thought, deciphers mechanisms of manipulation and the causes connected to extremist and sectarian movements.
  • The implantation of the active pedagogy known as “BOUNCE-Youth resilience”. The objective is to reinforce self-esteem, the ability to assert oneself and to relate to other young people to stimulate resistance to extremist ideas that lead to violence.
  • “The road to democracy and freedom” is an urban circuit through seven symbolic areas of the city of Liege. This itinerary stresses the values of tolerance, of democracy, of freedom and peace; it also promotes civic values that are fundamental for social cohabitation.

This pedagogical initiative of an artistic nature is yet another expression of how one can contribute to the prevention of violent radicalisation via the educational, social and cultural environment, to reinforce resilience among vulnerable groups.

Links of interest:

[1] Nadia is a coproduction of la Fondazione Teatro Due Parma (Italy), Staatstheater Braunschweig (Germany), Det Norske Teatret Oslo (Norway), Théâtre de Liège (Belgium) i De Toneelmarkerij Amsterdam (the Netherlands).


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The EU fights against hybrid threats

The European Union has to face serious threats, like violent radicalisation, chemical attacks, cyber attacks and misinformation campaigns. They all have a common destabilising denominator and endanger our society, and they also undermine the fundamental values of the EU.

Hybrid threats are those activities, whether military or not, that use more or less conventional methods and originate from state actors or actors from outside the state with the aim of meeting specific political objectives. They are multi-dimensional, combine coercive with subversive measures while using tools and techniques of a different nature. These threats focus on critical vulnerabilities and aim to create confusion to make it difficult to take effective decisions.

Hybrid attacks can be applied in different ways. Cyber attacks on critical information systems with the interruption of critical services, the weakening of trust in government institutions and the deepening of social divisions are some examples of these. Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats spread using non-conventional methods are considered to be in a category of their own as a consequence of the potential damage they can cause.

Faced with this situation, the EU has to improve its capacity to detect malicious activities in their primary phase and must increase the level of resilience of critical infrastructures, of societies and institutions. The fight against hybrid threats requires firm action from member states, as well as close collaboration with NATO members. All of these are fundamental in order to improve the capacity to resist and recover from attacks.

In 2015 22 action areas were identified, ranging from raising awareness to providing resilience. The following are some of the actions taken:

  • Create an organism to gather information and intelligence from member states to inform those responsible about decision making.
  • Create a European Excellence Centre in Helsinki to combat hybrid threats for research and analysis involving member states of the EU and NATO allies.
  • Carry out strategic and proactive communication and provide follow-up for means of communication to counter false news.
  • Increase resilience in the energy sector with a variety of sources and energy routes and promote security standards.
  • Prepare civil protection drills to assess the level of preparation in crisis situations.
  • Address online misinformation to make Internet more secure, prevent interference in elections and provide the EU with better information for its policies.

Some pending challenges focus on the need to improve early detection of hybrid threats and increase measures against misinformation campaigns; detect malicious activities and their origin within and outside the EU, and understand the connection between apparently non-related events. It is also necessary to enhance preparation in terms of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks, as well as reinforce cyber security and counter intelligence measures.

Links of interest:


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