Authorities in Belgium and the Netherlands have arrested 12 individuals for their alleged involvement in a major “vishing” (voice phishing) operation, Europol announced Tuesday.
While Europol reported that 12 individuals were arrested in the operation, Belgian media has reported that a total of 13 suspects have been apprehended.
According to Europol, the cybercriminals sent potential victims phishing emails appearing to come from a Belgian financial institution, which instructed recipients to enter personal information on a fake bank website.
After collecting information on their victims, the fraudsters called them by telephone and instructed them to perform certain actions as part of a so-called security update. Victims were then told to provide financial data, along with the one-time passwords (OTPs) generated by their bank authentication tokens.
Once the attackers obtained what they needed to access victims’ bank accounts, they transferred funds into the accounts of co-conspirators.
Belgian publication De Tijd reported (Dutch) that most of the arrested individuals are suspected of providing the masterminds of the operation with bank accounts to which the stolen money would be transferred.
Two of the arrested individuals, believed to be the leaders of the criminal organizations, are from the Netherlands. One of them, a woman from the city of Hilversum, has been handed over to Belgian authorities.
“This case is another example of organized cybercriminals setting up teams to act like legitimate representatives of established businesses, who then lure innocent victims into disclosing personal information. The criminals misuse this harvested information to steal the victims’ identities or money,” said Troels Oerting, head of EC3.
Europol’s EC3 and Eurojust hosted operational meetings and facilitated the exchange of information to help in the coordinated effort between authorities in the Netherlands and Belgium, Europol said.
“The success of this case would not have been possible without close cooperation with Europol and the establishment of a JIT [joint investigation team]. Eurojust’s continued support to JITs is crucial in combating newly evolving forms of organised cross-border crime,” Michèle Coninsx, National Member for Belgium and President of Eurojust, and Henri Tillart, Assistant to the National Member for the Netherlands, said in a joint statement.