A multimillion-dollar fraud gang who engaged in vishing, or voice phishing, has been disrupted by police in Ukraine and Czechia. According to Europol, the group is suspected of defrauding victims across the region, potentially making tens of millions of euros. The cost of their fraudulent activities to Czech victims alone is estimated to be €8m ($9m).
In April of this year, ten suspects were arrested, with six in Ukraine and four in Czechia. Local investigators, with support from Europol, carried out searches of homes, vehicles, and call centers in Domazlice, Rokycany, and Plzen in Czechia, as well as Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine. During the operation, mobile phones, SIM cards, and computer equipment were seized.
The fraud gang operated from call centers located in Ukraine, primarily targeting banking customers in Czechia. They would impersonate bank employees and police officers, using spoofed phone numbers to add credibility to their scams. Once they gained the trust of their victims, the scammers persuaded them that their accounts had been compromised and convinced them to transfer funds to what they believed were safe accounts controlled by the gang.
This seemingly simple scheme allowed the group to net millions, but it also drew the attention of the authorities. Czech investigators requested that Eurojust open a case in November 2021, leading to the establishment of a joint investigation team in June 2022 by Eurojust, the Czechia authorities, and the Ukrainian authorities.
Vishing has become an increasingly popular tactic for scammers seeking to enhance the success of their phishing campaigns. Last year, the UK carrier EE reported that it was blocking one million scam phone calls per day after implementing new AI technology to detect potential vishing attacks. This tactic is often used in tandem with traditional email phishing to boost the scammers’ chances of success.
According to PhishLabs, the use of “hybrid vishing” attacks, which start with an email containing a contact number, increased by 652% from Q1 to Q2 2022. The combination of vishing and email phishing has proven to be a potent weapon for fraudsters.
The takedown of this multimillion-dollar vishing gang highlights the increasing sophistication and global reach of organized cybercrime. Through close cooperation between law enforcement agencies across multiple countries, these criminal organizations can be disrupted and dismantled, protecting victims and holding perpetrators accountable for their actions. The case also serves as a reminder for individuals and businesses to remain vigilant against vishing and other forms of social engineering attacks, which continue to pose a significant threat in the digital age.