Four Bulgarian citizens have been arrested for allegedly running an ATM skimming operation in Europe, the international law enforcement agency, Europol, announced on Thursday. The concerted action involved the Italian Carabinieri, the Czech police and the Bulgarian General Directorate of Combating Organised Crime, supported by Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre. During the arrests over 1,000 counterfeit credit cards were seized alongside evidence of fraudulent international transactions worth more than 50,000 euros.
According to a Europol statement, dozens of ATM machines in central areas of European cities were targeted by the gangs who installed micro cameras or magnetic strips onto the terminals to steal people’s card details. The Bulgarian citizens who were arrested were described as the leaders of the “transnational criminal group” who supervised all stages of the criminal activity. The counterfeit cards were subsequently cashed out in countries like Jamaica and Belize where there is no chip and pin card protection.
According to figures released by the European Central Bank, some 1.44 billion euros were lost to payment card fraud in 2013.
This week’s arrests mark the second major blow against organised criminals specialising in ATM payment card data theft and illegal transactions. In May 27 people were arrested in several European countries for alleged involvement in a so-called ATM jackpotting operation, where an unauthorised device like a laptop is connected to an ATM, sending it commands to dispense cash. The perpetrators of this new and sophisticated form of card data theft mostly came from Romania, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine, according to a statement by Europol. A report published by the European ATM Security Team found that there were 58 such attacks in 2016, up from just 15 the previous year – a 287 percent increase.
Commenting on this week’s successful operation Europol said: “Working closely with the banking sector, law enforcement made another significant step towards making electronic transactions safer in the European Union.”