Over 1,800 arrests for laundering online scam profits

A Europol-led global effort to curb cybercrime resulted in 1,803 arrests and the identification of over 18,000 money mules.

Money mules were laundering profits from various online scams like sim-swapping and man in the middle attacks, e-commerce fraud, and phishing, Europol announced.

The operation codenamed EMMA 7 involved 27 countries, Eurojust, INTERPOL, the European Banking Federation, and the FinTech FinCrime Exchange.

According to Europol, countries from five continents contributed to the operation, with multiple private sector companies assisting in the effort.

The seventh iteration of the European Money Mule Action (EMMA) resulted in over 2,000 investigations and, according to Europol, prevented over $76 million in losses by reverting 7,000 fraudulent transactions across hundreds of financial institutions.

The program operates in tandem with private sector companies, encouraging them to report suspicious or possibly illegal financial activities to national law enforcement authorities.

Most of the investigation under EMMA 7 focuses on international muling where funds and mules operate in a cross-border manner. According to Europol, mules move between countries to set up bank accounts for money laundering purposes.

In some cases, mules might not be aware of the illegal activities they’re engaging in. That’s why organized crime groups recruit students, immigrants, and people in economic distress, offering easy money via ads on social media.

“Ignorance is not an excuse when it comes to the law and money muling; they are breaking the law by laundering the illicit proceeds of crime,” read Europol’s announcement.

The countries involved in the crackdown were Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Colombia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Moldova, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, UK, and the USA.

How to protect yourself against phishing

  • Use unique and complex passwords for all of your online accounts. Password managers help you generate strong passwords and notify you when you reuse old passwords.
  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) where possible.
  • Beware of any messages sent to you, even from your Facebook contacts. Phishing attacks will usually employ some type of social engineering to lure you into clicking malicious links or downloading infected files.
  • Watch out for any suspicious activity on your Facebook or other online accounts.

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