Nearly 100 people have been arrested in a massive clampdown on credit card fraudsters who swindled £7m worth of goods.
Across Europe 95 arrests have been made following a joint law enforcement operation targeting online fraudsters between 4 and 15 June 2018.
The suspects arrested during the operation are believed to be responsible for more than 20,000 fraudulent transactions using compromised credit cards, with an estimated value exceeding EUR 8 million (£7m).
The action was coordinated by Europol, working closely with law enforcement, the banking industry and retailers across 28 countries.
Several of the fraudsters targeted during the operations were using social media to commit remote purchase fraud.
Often, criminals will offer goods to buyers for a heavily discounted price via social media and then use stolen card details to make the purchase.
The buyers’ card details are then usually stolen and passed on to other fraudsters.
Detective chief inspector Glyn Whittick, head of the DCPCU, said: “The success of these operations shows how through close cooperation with our European partners, retailers and the financial sector, we are cracking down on the criminal gangs targeting consumers online.
“Ongoing investigations are now underway and we will continue to work together to bring those committing remote purchase fraud to justice.
“Fraudsters are increasingly targeting people through social media so it’s vital that everyone keeps their details safe. People should also remember when shopping online that if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
The operations in the UK were led by officers from the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU).
Nine search warrants were executed across the country, resulting in four interviews under caution and two arrests – one in Bolton and another in London.
During the searches valuable intelligence was gathered and several devices that were suspected of being used to commit remote purchase fraud were seized.
Ongoing investigations are now underway that are expected to result in further arrests and charges.
The operation has been followed by the launch of an awareness-raising campaign on social media –#BuySafePaySafe – by Europol and law enforcement agencies across Europe.
Kusal Ariyawansa, a chartered financial planner at Manchester-based Appleton Gerrard, said: “Hearing of such collaboration and evidencing strong action will reassure the public that authorities are not taking a laissez-faire approach, which is what many of us currently believe. To clampdown on such fraud you need efficient collaboration and strong Singapore-style punishment, which will act as a deterrent.”