Expatica news

European police forces smash international bank card scam gang

BRUSSELS, November 20 2008

Authorities in Belgium, Ireland, Romania have smashed a Romanian crime gang which specialised in copying bank cards and operated worldwide, the Belgian prosecutor’s office said Thursday.

The gang acting "on a global level" from their Belgian base, according to the Belgian authorities, is suspected of defrauding card users of millions of euros.

In Europe there were victims of their hi-tech "skimming" operations in Britain, Cyprus, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Turkey and Romania itself.

There were more suspected victims in Australia, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Morocco and New Zealand, the public prosecutor’s office said in a

A total of 34 police raids involving 250 officers were made in six EU nations – Belgium, Britain, Germany, Ireland, Romania and Spain. In those operations a total of 15 people were arrested; seven in Belgium, six in Romania and two in Spain.

The investigation into the gang began in March when Atos Worldwide, a Brussels-based company specialising in electronic payments, alerted
authorities to cash withdrawals made overseas with bank cards copied
from a Belgian cash distributing machine.

According to investigators, the gang used a tiny scanner placed at the card
slot copied information on the cards’ magnetic strips in a scam known as

A miniature camera would then film the bank customer’s access code. The stolen information was then copied onto new cards which could then be used to empty the accounts of bank customers who had no idea that they had been victims of the gang.
While the total amount the band defrauded was not known, the Belgian public
prosecutor said that in one weekend alone "several hundreds of millions of euros" had been pulled out of bank accounts in several countries by the use of fake cards used in Sydney, Australia.

(AFP/Expatica 2008)