Imagine yourself as an Internet fraudster. You’re sitting on the beach at a luxury resort, sipping a Mai tai and thinking about how much money you’ve collected from unsuspecting people.
Suddenly, a shadow falls over your cabana. You put down your Mai tai and look up to see yourself surrounded by police.
This scenario could very well have happened yesterday when Spanish police arrested 10 Internet fraudsters at the Costa del Sol resort on the Spanish coastline. If police are correct, the fraudsters may have collected millions of euros by posing as the European crime-fighting agency Europol.
The group devised a virus called Ransomware that infected many computers. The Europol imposters then asked for fines averaging about 100 euros per machine, telling users that they couldn’t unlock their computers without paying the fine.
The real Europol estimates that about three percent of people paid the fine. If they’re right, then fake Europol raked in a substantial pile of cash.
According to Spain’s Secretary of State for Security, Francisco Martinez, Europol had already arrested the group’s leader last December in the United Arab Emirates.
The leader, a Russian citizen, was joined by six fellow Russians, two Ukrainians and two Georgians after the arrests on Costa del Sol.
Ransomware had 48 variations designed to help it elude anti-virus software. The leader of the group developed the virus while the minions took care of the money laundering and sending their cash electronically to a Russian bank account.
According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, Internet fraud claims rose 3.4 percent in 2011. Losses totaled over half a billion dollars.
In the U.S., many fraudsters claim to be FBI agents. Fox News reports that many of these criminals send mass e-mails telling recipients that they have a large windfall from the lottery or from an inheritance.
The recipient then pays a small fee to get the windfall, only to find that no real money exists.
Edited by Brooke Neuman