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31 arrested in joint Bulgaria-Spain ATM fraud operation

Source: Focus News - Wed 1st Oct 2014
31 arrested in joint Bulgaria-Spain ATM fraud operation

Bulgarian and Spanish judicial and law enforcement authorities, working in close cooperation with Europol's European Cybercrime Centre in The Hague, have dismantled another significant Bulgarian organised crime network suspected of a variety of crimes including large scale ATM skimming, electronic payment fraud and forgery of documents, Europol and the Bulgarian State Agency for National Security (SANS) announced.

The action day for Operation Imperium on 30 September 2014 resulted in 31 arrests and 40 house searches. The coordinated action mainly took place in Malaga in Spain and in the three Bulgarian cities of Sofia, Burgas, and Silistra.

Eight criminal labs, including 2 complex modern production sites for skimming equipment and counterfeit documents in Sofia and Malaga, were discovered and dismantled during the raids. More than 1000 devices, micro camera bars, card readers, magnetic strip readers and writers, computers, phones and flash drives, as well as plastic cards ready to be encoded, were seized. Moreover officers found 3D printing equipment to produce fake plastic card slot bezels ready to be installed on the ATMs and manipulated POS terminals. Police officers also confiscated dozens of forged payment cards with records of PIN numbers, ready to be used at other ATMs.

The operation was led by Bulgarian and Spanish authorities via command and coordination centres in Sofia and Madrid. Europol ECC experts were present on the spot with mobile offices, allowing direct access to Europol's databases for the cross-checking, analysis and exchange of intelligence in real time. ECC officers also provided tailor-made expertise.

All raids and arrests took place simultaneously and were coordinated with the support of the Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT) officers located in the Europol headquarters in The Hague.

The primary modus operandi of the criminals and their associates was to harvest financial data from ATMs or tampered POS terminals in different areas of Europe (e.g. Italy, France, Spain, Germany, and Turkey), which they then used to create fake payment cards. The fake cards could then be used to withdraw large amounts of cash from ATMs outside the EU (e.g. in Peru and the Philippines).

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