Security Experts:

Spanish Authorities Dismantle SIM Swapping Gang

Spanish authorities this week announced they arrested eight individuals that were part of a fraud ring that employed SIM swapping to compromise bank accounts.

The suspects used phishing and impersonation to obtain the personal information of potential victims and then proceeded to take over online banking accounts to steal money.

As part of the scheme, the suspects convinced employees at phone stores to transfer the potential victims’ phone numbers to SIM cards in the attackers’ possession, the Spanish National Police says.

Posing as legitimate institutions, including banks, the attackers employed phishing (via SMS, email, and instant messaging applications) to obtain sensitive information from their victims, including passwords, credit card numbers, and copies of ID documents.

[READ: FBI Received 1,600 SIM Swapping Complaints in 2021]

Armed with photocopies of victims’ IDs and simulating a physical appearance similar to the victim, the attackers convinced phone stores employees to duplicate the victims’ phone numbers to new SIM cards.

With the legitimate SIM cards immediately deactivated, the attackers could hijack the victim’s messages and calls, including those containing keys needed to authorize fraudulent transactions.

The attackers used online accounts at various banks across Europe and even made some transactions in the name of their victims, in an attempt to make the attacks more difficult to trace.

However, Spanish authorities say they were able to trace the fraudulent transactions and uncover the group’s attempts to launder the illegally obtained funds through multiple bank transfers and instant payment platforms.

Seven of the suspects were arrested in Barcelona, while the eighth was arrested in Seville. The authorities also blocked 12 bank accounts.

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