Law enforcement agencies across Europe have arrested 95 criminals involved in darknet-supported credit card theft.
These professional fraudsters were identified as affiliates to organized internet-based criminal groups suspected of engaging in widespread online fraud.
The culprits are reported to have established fake online shops that offered well-advertised goods to be used as a bait for stealing users’ credit card information.
These suspects are alleged to have taken part in thousands of fraudulent transactions that culminated in losses running in millions of euros.
Specifically, it has been said that breached credit cards were utilized in an organized fraud scheme that stood at a staggering 8 million euros.
The fraudsters employed social media platforms to establish fake IDs that would advertise a range of heavily discounted goods to unsuspecting users.
The buyers’ card details would be harvested illicitly whenever they made purchases, and this data would then be sold on the dark web.
According to Europol, this event is a product of the 2018 e-Commerce Action (or eComm 2018), a multiagency operation sponsored by 28 countries to tackle online fraud.
In particular, the operation focused on enforcing the corridors of ecommerce through law enforcement and public awareness.
The action covered the European Union (E.U.) and was mainly coordinated by the European Cybercrime Center.
In the U.K., the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU) is credited with being a critical contributor to the success of the operation.
The entire operation benefitted from collaborative agreements with various stakeholders including merchants, companies, banks and payment card management entities.
Europol also increased the capacity of localized law enforcement agencies by providing them with analytical tools necessary for executing the action plan.
After several months of specialized drilling, the police carried out investigations in the month of June 2018.
Several homes were searched, interviews carried out and fraudulently bought goods were impounded over 11 days.
The operation discovered the existence of such merchandise ranging from electronics to financial instruments.
This exercise ended in the arrest of the criminals implicated in suspect online fraud schemes.
The Dimensions of Dark Web-Supported Online Fraud
Statistics for the latest financial year indicate an 80 percent upsurge in identity theft cases.
Agreeably, the online revolution has been blamed for this phenomenon that is typically orchestrated by hackers.
The characteristic elements of darknet-supported fraud add up to the challenges faced by law enforcement agencies in combating cybercrime.
As explicated by the aforementioned case, fraudsters have moved from operating individually to being members of organized cybercriminal groups.
There are indications that modern forms of online fraud have taken a rather professional angle, including the application of malware and ransomware, phishing attacks and the use of social media platforms to execute fraud schemes.
Social media comes in handy when criminals establish merchant profiles (web shops) that advertise goods sold at extremely low prices.
As consumer behavior would have it, this tactic works as a very effective bait to prospective buyers.
When a customer orders an item at the web shop, the fraudsters procure the—often pricey—items using compromised credit card data.
This compromised data is typically a product of initial malware and phishing attacks on users, and is usually purchased via the dark web.
Still, the fraudsters steal the credit card data of customers that transact through their fake online shops.
This data is then resold through other fraud forums that are localized in darknet markets.
The vendors are usually very popular on the dark web and attract great reviews to that effect.
Eventually, financial institutions and legitimate retailers become losers in the whole equation, with an annual loss that amounts to billions of euros globally.
How Can You Insulate Yourself Against Online Fraud Schemes?
Like any expert would advise, crime prevention is by far the most preferable form of intervention to fix the current mess riddling the e-commerce industry.
It is for this reason that the 2018 e-Commerce Action’s operational framework considered an awareness campaign to enlighten online users about online fraud.
Ultimately, the following simple safety rules apply to any individual hoping to protect themselves from darknet-associated e-commerce fraud:
Care should be taken regarding the choice of goods advertised online.
Just like the adage goes, when the deal appears too good, think twice.
It is critical for a user to ascertain the security of their connection and the integrity of the devices used to make online purchases.
An encounter with the tell-tale signs of online fraud should prompt a user to contact the authorities about it.
In case you fall into the trap of online fraud, it would be prudent to report the matter to both the police and your banking institution.
Monitor your banking activities accordingly. This concerns a frequent check of online transactions that are associated with your account.
Inform the bank of any transactions that you have not made yourself.
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