26 SIM Swappers Arrested in Spain and Romania

European police have arrested members of two separate SIM swapping gangs who targeted victims in Spain and Austria respectively.

In Operation Quinientos Dusim, Spanish police officers arrested 12 individuals belonging to a gang that stole over EUR3mn (USD3.3mn). The gang is responsible for over 100 separate attacks, in which they took between EUR6,000 (USD6,700) and EUR137,000 (USD153,000) from the bank accounts of victims. Their approach first involved using malware to steal passwords and usernames for online bank accounts. Then the fraudsters supplied fake documents to telcos in order to obtain replacement SIM cards that would then receive the one-time passwords (OTP) for payments to their mules. The execution of these thefts was slick, with transfers completed within two hours of a SIM being swapped.

Operation Smart Cash was a collaboration between the Romanian National Police (Poliția Română) and Austria’s Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt) that identified 14 Romanians who stole over EUR500,000 (USD560,000) from Austrian bank accounts. The Romanian gang would take control of the victim’s phone number, then use stolen banking credentials to access a mobile banking application so they could execute withdrawals at ATMs without needing to present a card. Each transfer was validated by a password sent by SMS to the compromised phone number.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.