Last week was a big week for global law enforcement as officials dismantled a long-standing botnet and they also ended a criminal network agencies said stole payment card data and performed illegal transactions.
The “Neptune” operation ended with the arrest of four key suspects in the network Thursday. All four suspects are Bulgarian citizens.
The operation was run by the Italian Carabinieri, in cooperation with the Bulgarian General Directorate of Combating Organised Crime, and the National Police of Czech Republic, supported by Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3).
The group would place cameras and magnetic strip readers (skimmers) on ATMs in central areas of European cities, as well as producing counterfeit credit cards using the stolen data captured by the skimmers, law enforcement officials said. The individuals used the fake cards to subsequently cash out money from ATMs in non-European countries, such as Belize, Indonesia and Jamaica.
As part of the operation, law enforcement agencies in Italy, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic, supported by Europol, identified dozens of ATMs that have been tampered with by the cybercriminals.
The operation also resulted in the seizure of more than 1,000 counterfeit credit cards and in the collecting of evidence of fraudulent international transactions worth more than EUR 50,000 or $59,254.50. The investigation started in late 2015.
“Since most of the illegal transactions with counterfeit cards took place overseas, the cooperation through dedicated investigative networks set up by Europol has been instrumental,” Europol officials said.
In September, Europol said cybercriminals are increasingly focused on accessing ATM machines through the banks’ networks, while having squads of money mules standing by, ready to pick up the stolen cash.