Syrians arrested in joint European cyber-crime operation

News by Tom Reeve

Police in Germany and Sweden, supported by Europol and Frontex, have arrested two suspects and searched multiple properties in a joint credit card fraud investigation.

Two suspects have been arrested in Germany and Sweden in connection with a Syrian cyber-crime gang suspected of fraudulently purchasing nearly 500 airline and train tickets.

The arrests, on 12 September, were the result of Operation Goldring, initiated by the German Federal Police in October and supported by Europol and Frontex.

Police recovered cash consisting of €54,000 (£48,115) and US$ 55,000 (£42,030) following house searches in Aachen, Dortmund and Essen in Germany and Nörrköping, Malmö and Helsingborg in Sweden.

Europol said that the group is suspected of buying 493 airline and train tickets, mostly one-way journeys from Beirut to European member states, using stolen corporate credit card details purchased online from other cyber-criminals.

The news follows the high-profile attack on the British Airways website which saw cyber-criminals steal 380,000 credit card records through compromised third-party web code, highlighting just how easy it can be for cyber-criminals to harvest large amounts of valuable credit card data.

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German police were notified of the fraudulent bookings by the private sector, a result of the close working relationship that has been fostered between police and business thanks to Europol’s Global Airport Action Day, Europol said.

The agency said in a press statement: "As part of this operation, Europol and Frontex have jointly identified significant crossovers between payment card fraud and irregular migration and trafficking in human beings, leading to a number of arrests in recent years. The operational successes of today have confirmed this trend."

The investigation was supported by Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) which facilitated communications between investigators in various member states. It said information seized in the raids will be analysed for clues to additional international cyber-crime networks.

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