Europol has hit several criminal networks suspected of being involved in large scale online fraud activities in the area of e-commerce. In the past two weeks, 95 individuals were arrested all over the European Union and beyond. According to Europol, more arrests are expected in the next few months.
The big operation “eComm 2018” started on June 4th, 2018. It involved law enforcement authorities from a total of 28 countries. Those are Austria, which led the operation, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and even the United States.
Operation “eComm 2018” was inspired by similar activities in the United Kingdom, where law enforcement authorities had teamed up with the credit card company Visa, in order to combat e-commerce fraud in Britain. It is supposed to be followed up by an awareness-raising campaign during which consumers in Europe will be informed about fraud in e-commerce, its dangers and ways to prevent it.
Europol says, the suspects arrested were responsible for more than 20,000 fraudulent transactions with compromised credit cards. The damage amounts to more than 8 million Euro.
“eComm 2018” was coordinated by the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) headquartered at Europol in The Hague. Merchants and banks assisted the authorities. More than 200 house searches were conducted. Electronical devices, credit card data, cash, drugs and luxury items of different kinds were confiscated during the operation.
According to Europol experts, credit card numbers from different continents are often involved, when fraudulent purchases are being made. Also, there are direct connections between e-commerce fraud and other crimes, such as malware attacks, phishing and fraudulent websites.
E-commerce fraudsters often use social media in order to create selling profiles. In many cases, they offer goods, such as clothing by popular brands or electronic devices, for half their value. When consumers purchase items from them, the culprits use their credit card data for expensive purchases. Or they purchase those data from other vendors in the so-called Darknet.
The awareness-raising campaign Europol intends to launch is entitled #BuySafePaySafe. Consumers should make online purchases from properly configured devices and identify warning signs, such as prices which are far too low. Also, checking the online banking services on a regular basis is recommended. Purchases or withdrawals not made by the credit card owner should be reported to the bank immediately.
Europol is the law enforcement agency of the European Union. Its full name is European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation. Like the American F.B.I., it has a most wanted list. For 20 years so far, the agency has fought organized crime and terrorism, in cooperation with the authorities in the E.U. member states.