CEO Fraud Busted – Hacker Group Stole €38M in a Few Days

A Franco-Israeli criminal network engaged in extensive CEO fraud has been destroyed as a result of a combined investigation assisted by Europol.

The investigation was conducted jointly by Europol, the police forces of France, Croatia, Hungary, Portugal, and Spain.

In one case involving a single company, the thieves were able to steal €38,000,000 ($40.3M) in a few days, transferring the cash fast via Europe and China before withdrawing it in Israel.

Reports say five action days were the consequence of the operational efforts, and they happened in France and Israel between January 2022 and January 2023.

Results of the Five Action Days

  • 8 home searches in Israel and France
  • the key organizer’s arrest in Israel
  • 8 individuals were detained (6 in France and 2 in Israel)
  • Electronic equipment and vehicles are among the items seized, along with approximately 3 million euros from Portuguese bank accounts, 1.1 million euros from Hungarian bank accounts, 600 000 euros from Croatian bank accounts, 400 000 euros from Spanish bank accounts, and 350 000 euros in virtual currencies.
  • About 5.5 million euros is considered to be the entire worth of the seizures.

Fraudsters Impersonated CEOs 

Reports mention that employees in the target firms’ financial departments were approached by fraudsters posing as CEOs, and they tricked them into making payments to bank accounts controlled by the criminals.

BEC scams typically rely on hacking into the target company’s email accounts to covertly monitor communications and spot possibilities like an impending contractor payment.

When the time is right, the scammers send an email from the hacked user asking the accounting division to quickly modify the information for the receiving bank account. Alternatively, scammers may pose as a contractor and unexpectedly demand payment or as the CEO and direct the accountants to make a transfer urgently.

One of the suspects pretended to be the CEO of a metallurgy-focused company with headquarters in the Haute-Marne department of northeastern France around the beginning of December 2021. 

The scammer requested that the company’s accountant send a confidential and urgent transfer of 300 000 EUR to a bank in Hungary. A few days later, when the accountant attempted to transfer EUR 500 000 while claiming to be the CEO of the business, the scam was exposed.

A Paris-based real estate developer also fell prey to fraud with a similar method of operation in late December 2021. Yet in this instance, the damages were significantly greater. The suspects pretended to be lawyers working for a reputable French accounting firm in order to commit the fraud. 

The scammer demanded a sizable, urgent, and confidential transfer after winning the victim’s trust. They convinced the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to send millions of euros abroad while posing as advisors. They stole over 38 million euros from the business overall in a sort of days.

“The analysis led to the identification of links between countries to enable the urgent seizure of criminal assets before the suspects could launder them”. 

“On the action days, Europol deployed experts to France, Hungary, and Israel to cross-check operational information against Europol’s databases in real-time and provide forensic support on the ground”, Europol.

In order to cross-check operational data against its databases in real-time and give forensic help on the ground, Europol sent experts to France, Hungary, and Israel.

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