THE National Police received a formal request from Germany through Europol to investigate one particular case of internet fraud and ended up arresting 31 people in Spain.
Basically, all of those arrested were involved in what tends to be known as a Nigerian letters scam whereby huge numbers of e-mails are sent out indiscriminately inviting individuals to assist in smuggling money from one country to another with the promise that they would receive a significant portion of the liberated funds.
In this instance however, the Spanish conmen were more sophisticated and rather than just send out huge numbers of emails, they purchased information about potential victims on the ‘dark net’ which allowed their approaches to be tailored to the individuals and therefore be more believable.
In the case of the German complainant, he was persuaded to assist a so-called American soldier who had been serving in Afghanistan and wanted to transfer money from that country to Europe in euros and after investigating the records of those arrested, it appears that at least 34 victims from 17 different countries had been conned into parting with some €5 million.
In some situations, individuals were encouraged to journey to Spain where they were taken to specially set up offices, signed fake documents and handed over funds all at very short notice and whilst tired or suffering from jet lag whilst those they were meeting, suddenly disappeared.
One American was reportedly defrauded of $1.7 million (€1.62 million) in a scam involving the daughter of a Vietnamese businessman who was trying to get her father released from prison where he was being unfairly held and she promised to let to victim have half of his fortune.
Officers raided 16 properties where they discovered fake banknotes, 1,500 letters ready to be dispatched, documents implicating those arrested, computer records, cash and paper which could be used in a ‘switching operation’ where packages of bank notes become blank paper.
Considering that this type of fraud has been going on for years and has been heavily publicised it is a lesson to all that it still nets money for the fraudsters and as the basic concept involves the victim agreeing to become involved in an operation which may involve the illegal movement of cash from one country to another, any sympathy that may be felt for them, may also be tempered by that knowledge.