Police from ten countries across Europe have arrested 42 fraudsters in connection with ecommerce scams.
Supported by Europol, officers detained the individuals on suspicion of “carding” – ordering high-value goods from online stores with stolen credit card information.
The coordinated action involved officers from Austria, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the UK. Police targeted properties were high-value goods paid for with stolen card data had been delivered.
Over 120 locations were searched and scores of packages intercepted after Europol received information on fraudulent online transactions from payment technology providers, e-merchants and logistics firms.
In total, the individuals held are thought to have been responsible for 3,000 fraudulent transactions worth as much as €3.5 million. Officers seized high-value goods including smartphones, tablets wearable devices and clothing during the operation.
A Europol spokesperson said: “This type of cooperation is an effective way of tackling payment card fraud while saving police resources.
“By working together and utilising Europol’s unique capabilities, law enforcement authorities from member states were able to piece together 3,000 individual fraud investigations into 40 international cases. Merchants and banks contributed extensively to these investigations.”
The investigation revealed that those arrested may have been involved in other forms of illegality, including money laundering, phishing, fake ID production, romance scams, terrorism and illegal immigration – demonstrating how this type of crime is often committed by gangs that are involved in additional types of criminality.
According to Europol, payment card fraud is viewed by criminals as a low-risk activity that can bring high rewards. The law enforcement agency estimates that €1 billion is typically lost to this type of crime annually. The European Central Bank estimates that 66% of the value of all card fraud is the result of card-not-present (CNP) transactions, which are typically made online or over the phone.
Over the course of the past year, this type of crime has rocketed across Europe, according to Europol’s 2016 Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) report. The agency said the airline industry is a particular target for CNP scammers, with flight providers around the world losing billions of euros every year to the crime.
For organised criminal gangs, the risks attached to carding are far lower than other illegal activities such as drug trafficking and people smuggling. The fact that stolen card data can be used remotely online, and that high-value goods can be delivered to go-betweens, means the perpetrators of CNP fraud can easily take steps to avoid detection. Even if caught, the penalty for this type of crime can be relatively lenient when compared to the punishment for other illegal activities organised criminals often become involved in.