Major European operation to target e-commerce fraud

HACK-fraud-card-code-royalty-free-thumbnailA joint law enforcement operation supported by 19 countries led to the arrest of 60 fraud suspects. The main aim of the e-Commerce action (eComm 2019) was to target criminal networks suspected of online fraud through coordinated law enforcement actions within the European Union. An awareness-raising campaign followed the operation.

The process was coordinated by Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and received direct assistance from national law enforcement authorities and the private sector.

E-commerce fraud includes illegal or false transactions made on online platforms, apps, and services provided over the internet. Fraudsters simply use stolen credit card details to make purchases from webshops.

The suspects arrested during the operation, which took place at the beginning of October 2019, were responsible for almost 6,500 fraudulent transactions with compromised credit cards, with an estimated value of more than €5 million.

Europol assisted the competent national authorities during the operations in their respective countries with analytical support and information sharing. In order to protect customers from fraudulent payments and ensure a safe online environment, Europol also collaborated with banks, credit card providers, European retailers and logistics companies.

The investigative measures revealed that individual fraudsters are connected to organised crime groups and are often involved in other types of crime such as phishing, malware attacks, using stolen passports, money laundering, creating fake websites and using online social platforms for fraudulent purposes.

This year has seen an increase in the number of fraudulent purchases of online services, rather than of physical goods: the virtual dimension of this crime makes it very hard to investigate. Fraudulent purchases of entry tickets, subscriptions and rentals are all carried out online and even via apps.

Some investigations showed that fraudulently booked railway tickets (purchased with stolen credit card details) are sold on to third parties who might then use them to commit other crimes and offences.

In this instance, more than 1,000 fraudulent bookings, amounting to a financial loss of around €70,000, were identified. Another modus operandi is to buy vouchers with stolen credit cards and later have them reimbursed to another method of payment.

Websites and social network accounts are often used to create fake online shops or purchase electronic goods. The suspects’ global turnover could be billions of Euros every year. The fraudsters use stolen credit card details, obtained through the darknet, or via malware and phishing attacks, to buy products.

It’s always better to prevent a crime than to have to solve it. The operation was followed by a prevention and awareness-raising campaign entitled #BuySafePaySafe. There are a number of guidelines you can follow to protect yourself from fraud:

  • Make sure the device you use to make online purchases is correctly configured and that the internet connection is secure.
  • Using a card is a safe online payment method so long as you take the same precautions you would with other types of shopping.
  • There are simple warning signs that can help you identify scams. If you are a victim of online fraud, report it to the police. If you have brought the product with a credit or debit card, inform your bank as well.
  • Check your online banking services regularly.

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The United States downgrades El Salvador’s threat level

Traspaso de Mando de la Policía Nacional Civil.The United States has recognised security improvements in El Salvador and downgraded its travel alert for US citizens.

The level 2[1] travel alert that now applies to El Salvador is considered to be a positive step forward and recognises efforts to improve the security situation in the Central American country.

El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, emphasised that no other previous government succeeded in revoking the ‘do not travel’ alert due to the Central American country’s security problems. And, when Bukele was sworn in as president of the country on the 1st of June 2019, there was an average of 9.2 homicides per day. Yet, by August of this year, the homicide rate was already at its lowest since the peace accords of January 1992, at 4.2 violent deaths per day.

In 2018, the United States issued a level 3 alert, recommending that its citizens reconsider travel to El Salvador and take adequate precautionary measures as a result of the country’s security problems. Following the preliminary homicide-reduction results of the Territorial Control Plan, Bukele’s government had already made several requests for US officials to lower the alert level.

The Minister of Tourism, Morena Valdez, said the US’ decision was a historic moment and believes the time has come to attract more tourism by promoting and positioning the country’s attractions, as well as revitalising the economy.

Ricardo Sosa, a criminologist and expert in gang violence, underlined the significance of the American government’s decision to lower the alert after re-evaluating the country’s risk factors. Sosa believes that the rates of all high-impact crimes are falling, particularly incidences of violent homicide. And he’s optimistic that the latest positive trend in crime statistics will make it easier for El Salvador to attract foreign investment.

However, it’s worth mentioning that El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, entered into cooperation pacts with the US to reduce the flow of irregular migration from the Central American country, and, according to the estimates of the North-American authorities, has succeeded in doing so by around 60%.

Recently El Salvador has deployed 800 police officers and 300 migration officials to reinforce the country’s main borders, prevent illegal people smuggling, and fight transnational crime. An agreement was also signed with the US to facilitate the return of many asylum seekers.

For its part, the United States explained in a press conference that the travel alerts do not reflect the nature of its bilateral relationships with any country. Despite this, relations between the United States and El Salvador have significantly improved since president Bukele took office, becoming in just a few months one of North America’s closest allies in the region.

[1] The United States’ level 1 alert is “exercise normal precautions”. Level 2 is “exercise increased caution”. Level 3 is “reconsider travel”, and level 4 is “do not travel”.

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Substantial investment in public safety in Peru

policia perúPeru’s Head of State, Martín Vizcarra Cornejo, alongside the president of the Council of Ministers, Vicente Zeballos, and the Minister of Interior, Carlos Morán, led a ceremony in which 900 new vehicles were delivered to the Peruvian National Police (PNP).

The delivery was a sign of the government’s commitment to improving safety for Peruvians. According to the government, the investment aims to improve security for the population by not skimping on the experience and resources necessary to guarantee an effective police presence throughout the country, especially in the most dangerous areas. Furthermore, it underlined that the country’s economic development hinges not only on growth but also on security.

The investment in equipment will be complemented by an investment in human resources, with the incorporation of 12,000 new agents dedicated entirely to reinforcing security on the streets. At the same time, a study to look at ways of improving working conditions for police force has been commissioned.

The Minister of Interior specified that the police would be tasked with distributing the new vehicles between sectors, sub-sectors, and quadrants so that, initially, all commissions in Lima and Callao will have an exhaustive and monitored preventive patrol service. The model will be extended to the rest of the country at a later date.

The acquisition of the 900 vehicles – 700 cars and 200 pick-up trucks – is a testament to the fact that the safety of its citizens is a fundamental priority for the government. In this way, the service can be rolled out quickly, in line with demands from the public.

The vehicles have been acquired on rental agreements to allow the service to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with the entire fleet of cars and human resources in operation. This is made possible because the contract includes vehicle maintenance (with 50 back-up vehicles), and no extra charge for faults, repairs, or accidents.

The 900 new vehicles and 12,000 extra police will see a return to more police presence on the streets, in parks, at universities, and other educational centres. The government underlined the fact that public safety is an absolute priority for the executive and demanded by the people. As such, they will not skimp on providing the experience and resources needed to tackle crime and guarantee security for both Lima and the rest of the country.

The vehicles, which are already operational, are equipped with LED light bars, electronic sirens, identification signage, and real-time GPS location monitoring.

They also have a telemetry system, compatible with any mobile device, which can, among other things, monitor fuel consumption and produce detailed reports on all callouts.

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The present and future of organised crime in the European Union

Organised crime has evolved significantly over the last twenty years, especially in terms of the number of criminal organisations, their modus operandi, the use of technology and organised crime’s ability to infiltrate infrastructures and the public sector and to make the most of legal loopholes.

This was just one of the conclusions reached at the European Police Chiefs Convention 2019 (EPCC), during which some 600 police officials and representatives from 50 countries gathered at Europol headquarters in The Hague.

This annual event brings together police chiefs and officials from the EU and from all over the world to exchange assessments of the threats, challenges and opportunities posed by current and emerging criminal groups. Through hundreds of bilateral and multilateral meetings, the delegates discussed the continuing evolution of organised crime and how it has become a significant challenge for EU security. The police authorities of the EU member states and Europol all agreed that the increasingly cross-border nature of organised crime, often tied to violence between gangs, the expansion of the drug traffic markets and related crimes like money laundering and corruption, constitutes a significant challenge for our society.

In some regions of several EU member states a vicious circle that involves social exclusion, criminality, mistrust of the police and, in some cases, radicalisation has been observed.

Meanwhile, new psychoactive substances, record levels of drug production worldwide, organised trafficking of migrants and the development of online crime have had a profound effect on the criminal panorama.

Europol and the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the European Union concluded that various areas require special attention. These include:

  • a focus on organised crime, considering it as a serious threat to the EU’s internal security.
    • a need to tackle high-level organised criminal groups by developing more effective initiatives, such as the ‘high-value target’ concept at Europol.
    • greater attention being paid to economic and financial crime and the confiscation of criminal assets, which will ensure that the costs of crime are paid by criminals. And the use of new tools like the European Financial and Economic Crime Centre (EFECC) at Europol and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO).
    • greater flow of information between the police and the private sector, at national and European levels (Europol).
    more investment in crime prevention, which requires a multidisciplinary approach that involves government bodies, NGOs and the private sector.
    a need for an overall EU strategy to tackle organised crime, which may be expanded during the EU policy cycle on serious international crime.

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The Automatic Facial Recognition System of London’s Metropolitan Police force is questioned by independent research

The results of a study carried out by two teachers of the University Of Essex in collaboration with London’s Metropolitan Police have just been published[1], highlighting the fact that only a third of the identifications carried out using the automatic facial recognition system are correct. In the remaining cases the persons identified do not correspond to those being sought after.

The study, which has also been echoed internationally[2], also points to doubts about the appropriateness of the right to use this system of artificial intelligence on the part of the Metropolitan Police. First of all, there is no legal base for using this system generically, meaning that if we bear in mind that it involves limiting rights, it does not abide by  the obligation to be applied in accordance with the law. Secondly, there is no justification for the need to use this technology, meaning that if the problem cannot be resolved with another less intrusive method, the impact that this may have on the rights of those affected cannot be assessed (which has also been established more recently by a report from the Video Surveillance Commission[3]).

The very construction of the list of people sought after with which the faces viewed are contrasted with the cameras does not seem to follow a criteria that is clear and uniform when choosing the people who are part of it. These include people sought after by both the judiciary and the police force and they have not committed an offence in all cases.

At an operative level, the results have been very poor, of the 46 identifications carried out by the system only 26 were considered to be credible by the officers involved, but in four of the cases the people identified as wanted were not stopped, as they blended into the crowd. Of the remaining 22, only eight led to the arrest of the sought-after person, while the other 14 showed that that the person who had effectively been stopped did not correspond to the one being sought after. The decision-making process once the camera image is received does not seem to have been the correct one in several cases, detecting, among other deficiencies, precipitation when intervening.

It is important, however, to recognise the collaboration with the Metropolitan Police itself in the research work. Indeed, the use of this instrument was taken into consideration over a three-year test period, during which tests have been carried out related to its functioning (too centred on purely technical questions according to the study by the University of Essex) promoted by the police force itself. The test period ended in July 2019. The results of this observation as a whole must serve to modify its use in the future[4].

[1] Vid. https://48ba3m4eh2bf2sksp43rq8kk-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/London-Met-Police-Trial-of-Facial-Recognition-Tech-Report.pdf

[2] Vid. http://www.polizei-newsletter.de/links.php?L_ID=638

[3] Vid. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/786392/AFR_police_guidance_of_PoFA_V1_March_2019.pdf

[4] Vid. https://www.met.police.uk/live-facial-recognition-trial/

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The non-violent crime rate continues to fall in Switzerland

The data published by Switzerland’s Federal Institute of Statistics[1] confirm the trend over recent years. First, both strictly criminal offences and those that are against drug-trafficking–related legislation and those against immigration law continue to fall. Criminal offences have gone down more than the previous year (61% and in 2016 they had fallen by 4%), whereas violations of immigration law have decreased even more (9.1%, as opposed to drop of 1% in 2016). Crimes related to drug trafficking have fallen slightly more than last year (3.8% in 2017 as opposed to 3% last year).     In this context, it is important to stress that offences against personal integrity have not gone down in the same way, and have remained stable (there are 90 fewer cases, indiscernible in percentage terms[2]).  Significant decreases are seen with regard to crime against property, which amount to 67.5% of offences against the criminal code and fall by 6%. The decrease in burglaries is noteworthy and goes down by 12%. Crimes against human liberty see a fall of 9.1%, but are not so relevant in global terms.

Regarding detentions (“accused”, as they say), the overall number remains stable (0.1% less than the previous year) but an increase of 8.3% is detected in the detention of minors, although these refer to minor offences like theft, damage, brawls and insults. Those Swiss nationals detained for offences against the criminal code still do not account for half (47.85%). Most foreigners detained (59.31%) are habitual residents in the country, 8.6 asylum seekers and 32% are non-residents. The relatively high numbers of permanent foreign residents are manifest when the predominant nationalities involved are seen. The first four places are taken by Italians, Portuguese, Germans and French, which are nationalities that have a large number of habitual residents in the country. On the other hand, regarding offences against drug legislation, the Swiss are indeed the majority (55.75%) and concerning offences related to immigration laws, non-resident foreigners naturally account for the immense majority (80%).

The crime rate (criminal law) per thousand inhabitants is 52.1 (a drop of 6%) and the cantons with the highest rates are the more urban and populated areas: Basel city (113.5), Geneva (102.8) and Neuchatel (65.8). The ones with the lowest rates are very rural and less populated areas: Uri (22.7), Appenzell Innerrhoden (23) and Schwyz (26%).

[1] Vid. https://www.bfs.admin.ch/bfs/de/home/statistiken/kataloge-datenbanken/publikationen.assetdetail.4822913.html

[2] 24.632 this year per 24,722 last year.

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Notable drop in crime in Germany

Polizeiliche Kriminalstatistik 2017The German Bundeskriminalamt has just published the crime data corresponding to 2017. Despite all the forecasts predicting that the waves of refugees over recent years would cause a dangerous increase in crime, figures show a drop of 9.6% with reference to the previous year (5,761,984 incidents compared with 6,372,526 the previous year).

Important drops can be seen in practically all criminal categories, with the exception of economic crime (28%, but in overall figures, 74,070), firearm-related crime (trafficking) and against public health (drugs), pornography and very slightly in crimes involving fraud (20.6% of which are committed via Internet), computer crime (especially among nationals) or against the authority of the State (especially among foreigners).

Crimes against property (theft, robbery without violence, burglaries of homes and businesses) continue to constitute an important fraction of the crime committed (36.3%) and just over two million offences were recorded (2,092,994), a figure that suggests a reduction of 11.8% in reference to the previous year. Decreases are manifested in all criminal categories (the23% drop in burglaries is noteworthy), both when the authors of such crimes are nationals or foreigners.

An important number of crimes continue to take place in the street, 20.9% of the total.

Crimes against immigration law saw a drop of 63.1% (going down from 487,711 to 179,848), which shows that the rhetoric announcing an overwhelming effect due to the arrival of refugees was a mistaken forecast.

Violent crime saw a more moderate decrease, 2.4% in total, especially due to the fall in theft with violence (9.7%). Homicide, on the other hand, only fell by 1.6%.

Crimes against public health (drugs) saw an increase of 9.2%, amounting to 330,580 cases. Most are related to the trafficking of cannabis and marihuana (204,904), amphetamines and by-products (47,662) and, in third place, of cocaine and crack (19,644). The following factors are stressed as being among the causes for such an increase:

  • The increase in police pressure
  • The increase in the availability of such drugs
  • Sales via Internet
  • The recent incorporation of customs officers in the fight against drug trafficking

Finally, it must be stressed that the crime rate per thousand inhabitants is 68.82(the previous year, 77.54) and that the percentage of foreigners arrested is down from 40.4% the previous year to 34.8%.

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How does police presence and action affect the French public’s perception of security?

A study carried out based on crime interviews Cadre de vie et sécurité, 2008-2017[1] has allowed for the assessment of police presence and action by over 160,000 interviewees over the age of 14, resident in France.

In general terms, the French population views police presence and action positively: 47% of those interviewed think that the police presence in their neighbourhood or municipality is sufficient and 48%, that police action against crime is effective enough. These perceptions continue to be very stable with the passing of time and improve as of 2015, possibly due to a better and more visible police presence, reinforced after the terrorist attacks. Despite this, 19% of these individuals considered the police presence to be insufficient and 27%, inexistent. With regard to socially disadvantaged areas, the percentage of those who consider police action not to be effective enough rises to 44%.

Apart from global percentages, aspects like the individual characteristics of the person interviewed and the place of residence have an impact on the assessment of the presence and effectiveness of police action.

Individual characteristics

In general, men and more elderly people view police presence and effectiveness positively.

  • 49% of the men interviewed think that police presence in the local environment is sufficient compared to 45% of women. 49% of men also consider police action effective, compared to 46% of women.
  • 52% of people over 66 believe that the police presence in their neighbourhood is sufficient and 50% believe that police action is effective enough.

Features of the place of residence

In general, the perception of the effectiveness of police action in the fight against crime is very positive in rural areas, but it gets worse in urban conurbations with over 100,000 inhabitants and in the metropolitan area of Paris. As shown in the graphic below.

Assessment of police action in the fight against crime in accordance with the territory

accio_policial_en

Source: Interviews CVS (2008-2017): INSEE-ONDRP-SSMSI; data treatment: ONDRP. The people interviewed are over 14 and live in France.

Although a casual connection has not been successfully established, there seems to be a link between the presence and effectiveness of police action in the municipality and the population. Inversely, the individuals who feel most insecure also tend to be more critical when assessing police practices.

Further information:

[1] The Cadre de vie et sécurité survey was conducted by Ministerial Statistics Service and Internal Security (SSMSI) from 2015, and the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) and the National Crime and Penal Response Observatory (ONDRP) from 2007.

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United Kingdom will give the police force more powers to address terrorism

In 2017, Great Britain suffered three terrorist attacks. In March, in London, there was the incident at Westminster Bridge and the Parliament; in June, the incidents at London Bridge and Borough Market, and in May, in Manchester, and the attack at the end of the concert given by the American singer Ariana Grande. These terrorist attacks caused the deaths of 35 people.

Obviously, these continued incidents have led to a debate in British society about the radicalisation process and measures to detect it. In this debate, the British government wants to change legislative framework in order to give greater powers to the intelligence services (MI5) and to the police in order to prevent further acts of terrorism.

MI5 informs that there are over 23,000 cases to monitor, but that only 3,000 are investigated. Furthermore, according to British government data, the terrorist threat has increased since 2011, when the anti-terrorism strategy was published.

The new government proposal, according to most of the British press, gives power to MI5 to be able to work and coordinate police work and the rest of the services involved, both locally and nationally. The objective is to be able to place those suspected of being radicalised under surveillance.

There is a wish to extend prison terms, as the British government had already announced, and intense monitoring is proposed even when the person has completed his/her sentence. There is also a call for teachers, doctors and other community leaders to inform of anyone they suspect of being radicalised.

The objective, according to the Home Secretary, is to leave no space for terrorism, impeding recruitment to keep families and the community safe.

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Firearms and traffic accidents, the main causes of police deaths in the USA

Between 2010 and 2016, over 1,000 police officers died in the USA on duty or because of being police officers. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Found has carried out, with financial support from the Department of Justice, the study Making It Safer: A Study of Law Enforcement Fatalities Between 2010-2016, of 1,016 police deaths in these circumstances, with the aim of offering security advice in order to prevent and avoid such fatal outcomes.

The study analyses these cases and offers advice to act safely or take protective measures from different perspectives:

  • The main noteworthy causes of the death of an agent involve firearms and traffic accidents.
  • The type of service that led to the death (responding to a request, ex-officio action, patrolling tasks), in a training context or even in off duty contexts.
  • If the officers affected were taking some nature of security measure, especially if they were wearing a bullet-proof vest in the case of firearm deaths or a knife attack, or if they were wearing a seat belt in the case of a traffic accident.

Deaths due to firearms during this period amounted to 376. The last year, 2016, was the second worst, with 66 officers killed, just under the 73 killed in 2011; moreover, it means an increase of 53% compared with the previous year, 2015, when there were 43. Investigators associate part of this increase with the higher number of ambushes of police officers, in some cases they were even off duty.

A good proportion of officer deaths are related to vehicles and traffic: 247 deaths because of car accidents and 45 because of motorcycle accidents. Investigators propose that all officers wear a seat belt, because in 2016 52% of the officers who died in traffic accidents were not wearing a seat belt.

Finally, the report analyses 550 cases of officers who died because of a firearm fired by a police officer, in this case over a much greater period (cases date back to 1856). The following are particularly noteworthy:

  • 139 are accidents involving officers shooting themselves (without any intention of committing suicide);
  • 105 were officers mistakenly identified as criminals by other police officers;
  • 46 officers died during training exercises.
  • 14 were cases of cross fire.

The same organisation drew up the previous report Deadly Calls and Fatal Encounters. Analysis of U.S. law enforcement line of duty deaths when officers responded to dispatched calls for service and conducted enforcment (2010-2014)

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