The National Police of Spain said it arrested 40 individuals for their alleged involvement in an organized crime gang called Trinitarians.
Among those apprehended include two hackers who carried out bank scams through phishing and smishing techniques and 15 other members of the crime syndicate, who have all been charged with a number of offenses such as bank fraud, forging documents, identity theft, and money laundering.
In all, the nefarious scheme is believed to have defrauded more than 300,000 victims, resulting in losses of over €700,000.
“The criminal organization used hacking tools and business logistics to carry out computer scams,” officials said.
To pull off the attacks, the cybercriminals sent bogus links via SMS that, when clicked, redirected users to a phishing panel masquerading as legitimate financial institutions to steal their credentials and abuse the access to request for loans and link the cards to cryptocurrency wallets under their control.
These SMS messages sought to induce a false sense of urgency and increase the actors’ chance of success by urging the recipients to click on the accompanying link in order to resolve a purported security issue with their bank accounts.
The stolen cards were used to purchase digital assets, which were then cashed out to fund the group’s operations, such as paying legal fees, sending money to members in prison, and the purchase of narcotics and weapons.
Some of the illicit proceeds were also sent to foreign bank accounts, from where other group members used the money to purchase real estate in the Dominican Republic.
“They also had an extensive network of mules that they used to receive money from bank transfers and withdraw it through ATMs,” the National Police said.
Another scam perpetrated by the outfit entailed contracting point-of-sale (PoS) terminals by setting up front companies to make false purchases.
Authorities said 13 house searches were carried out in the provinces of Madrid, Seville and Guadalajara, leading to the confiscation of computer equipment, padlocks, €5,000 in cash, lock-picking toolkits, and other documents containing information about the gang’s organizational structure.