In a group effort between French, Belgian, Romanian and Israeli law enforcement agencies, an organized chief executive fraud crime group ended up busted, officials at Europol said.
In a previous incident, members of the ring had been arrested in France and Belgium, and everything pointed to the ring leader(s) hiding in Israel.
The EU law enforcement agency said these four main suspects were arrested last Monday by the French National Gendarmerie – Section de Recherches of Bordeaux and the Israeli Lahav 433 Unit in different locations in Israel.
“This investigation is the follow-up of systematic operational activities initiated in 2016 when two French companies fell victim to CEO fraud, incurring an estimated $1.4 million (€1.2 million) financial loss,” the agency said in a post.
The group caused over $21 million (€18 million) worth of damage to the Belgian and French-based commercial companies they targeted, officials said.
“Incidents of CEO fraud (where the impersonation of CEOs is a key part of the modus operandi) have increased significantly in recent years and we are now at a point where EU-based companies are being swindled out of hundreds of million euros every year,” said Europol Deputy Executive Director of Operations Wil Gemert.
“Since the fraudsters often operate from outside the EU, it is only with internationally coordinated operations and a strong focus on asset recovery that we can achieve meaningful successes in the fight against this crime.”
CEO fraud, also known as business email compromise (BEC) scam, has been increasing.
Business email compromise is a social engineering attack that leverages authority and trust, and social networks and free cloud email services make it simple for cybercriminals to identify their targets, create an email account that impersonates a trusted entity (CEO, brand, partner) and then create a believable con with personalized details to make these attacks successful.