Ukrainian “cyber-police” have arrested nine alleged members of a prolific phishing gang that made 100 million hryvnias ($3.4m) by luring locals with the promise of financial support from the EU.
Digital experts teamed up with Pechersk Police Department officers and specialists from the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) to crack the case.
The nine are accused of building and operating over 400 phishing sites that requested victims enter their bank account and card details in order to apply for social welfare payments from the EU.
Once they received the data, the gang would use it to hijack users’ accounts and transfer their funds.
According to the NBU, over 5000 victims were scammed this way, earning the fraudsters millions.
While arresting the nine men, the police also seized computer equipment, mobile phones, bank cards and money obtained by criminal means.
Those arrested face 15 years behind bars if found guilty. They’ve been accused of fraud and unauthorized interference in the work of IT systems and networks.
The incident shows the agility of scammers in exploiting rapidly changing local circumstances to monetize attacks at any cost. With many suffering economic hardship in the country since Russia’s invasion, the lure of potential EU financial support proved irresistible.
This isn’t the first time Ukrainian investigators have trumpeted successes in arresting cyber-criminals.
In February, they claimed to have arrested a gang of five that allegedly tricked tens of thousands of victims into handing over their credit card details on spoofed sites.
In November, the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) arrested another group that lured victims to phishing gang sites and persuaded them to download apps that provided remote access to their mobile devices.
These successes come in stark contrast to a Russian law enforcement policy of allowing cyber-criminals to remain active as long as their efforts are targeted at foreign victims.
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