Nov 9, 2021
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Criminal group dismantled after forcing victims to be money mules

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Money mule hidden in crowd
The Spanish police have arrested 45 people who are believed to be members of an online fraud group that operated twenty websites to defraud at least 200 people of 1,500,000 Euros ($1.73 million).
The simultaneous weekend raids took place in various provinces of Spain, and were the result of lengthy investigations that began in July 2019.
The actors created at least twenty distinct fraudulent web portals where they offered various consumer electronic products at an alluringly low price.
When victims made purchases, the money went to bank accounts that belonged to other victims who were forced by the criminals to act as “money mules”.
The actors used the order information to contact the person who made the purchase, and told them that they had been scammed.
Subsequently, they informed the victim that the only way to get their money back was to become “money mules” themselves.
These people were coerced to open new bank accounts and issue “clean” credit cards, and then send them to various PO boxes in the Republic of Benin.
The money was withdrawn at ATMs in Benin, with the actors hoping that the West African country would be far from any kind of scrutiny.
In some cases, the money mules were happy with the commission they received, and opened more bank accounts voluntarily.
In other cases where victims weren’t as cooperative, the criminals had to deliver death threats or use forged contracts that presented them as legitimate moneylenders, tricking victims into thinking they operated in a legal context.
The second type of fraudulent operation of the same ring came in the form of online loan advertisements posted and promoted on social media.
The actors posed as French financiers and offered loans on the condition of receiving a small deposit that was supposedly required for covering loan application commissions and relevant expenses.
These ranged between 500 and 1,000 Euros ($580 – $1,150), and at least 200 people sent these amounts to the crooks in the hope of receiving a loan.
Apart from that deposit, the victims were instructed to obtain a new credit card and send it to Benin, together with the matching online banking credentials.
The Spanish police mention strong links between this particular group and others in Germany, Austria, France, and Poland, and so the investigations will continue in collaboration with Interpol and Europol.
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