Auction fraud criminals caught

March 26th 2014

A criminal group responsible for a global spate of sophisticated online auction frauds – including in the UK – has been dismantled and a number of arrests made.

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The Polish police, Europol's European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and eBay joined forces to tackle the group. Hundreds of victims from at least 15 countries including the UK, Poland, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Spain, USA, Canada and India, were potentially affected by the scam, involving the fictitious sale of electronic items via online auctions hosted on eBay and other online Polish platforms. After making electronic payments for goods such as Apple Mac computers, customers were instead sent items such as bricks, fruit and vegetables.  In the case of eBay customers, nothing at all was sent. Once electronic funds were received by the fraudsters, they were transferred to unregistered pre-paid cards and cash withdrawn via ATMs. Customers shopping on eBay are protected by a money back guarantee but the fraud exposure would otherwise have amounted to tens of thousands of euros since 2013.

Despite the criminals’ sophisticated attempts to mask their online identities and activities, Polish police and EC3 cyber experts carried out a series of strikes against the group, supported by eBay, which was able to trace the ciminal activity online via live monitoring systems its Dublin operations centre. Two key suspects were arrested in the Polish town of Pulawy while attempting to withdraw fraudulently obtained cash from an ATM. Subsequent house searches led to the seizure of items including anonymous pre-paid cards, cars, laptops, mobile phones.

Head of EC3 Troels Oerting said: “This successful case is a perfect example of very effective cooperation between eBay, the Polish National Police and the EC3 in a crime that affected victims from more than 15 countries on three continents. By working together, sharing information and coordinating this investigation in multiple jurisdictions we have proven that the criminals might be able to run but they can't hide. Together with eBay and other companies operating online, and the hard-working cybercrime experts in the EU Member States and abroad, we will continue to optimise our investigative methods and put more criminals behind bars."

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