Experts at Group-IB, an international cybersecurity company specialized in preventing cyberattacks and conducting high-tech cybercrime investigations, helped carry out a special operation to take down a large group of telephone scammers. Posing as representatives of the Central Bank of Russia or the Arbitration Court, the criminals offered elderly people compensation for drugs they had purchased or medical services they had used. Instead, the scammers tricked the victims and stole money from them — anywhere between $500 and $13,500.
In just two days, Group-IB helped arrest 16 members of the criminal group, which for years had been targeting elderly people in many parts of Russia. According to the police, the criminals had managed to deceive more than 50 senior citizens. The specialists involved in the operation have pointed out that the actual number of victims could be much higher.
Posing as employees of the Central Bank of Russia or the Arbitration Court, the criminals offered elderly people compensation for drugs or medical devices they had purchased. To gain their trust, the scammers used social engineering: they mentioned not only the victim’s name and address, but also the exact price of the drug or device that had been purchased. Yet compensation from the state could allegedly only be obtained after paying an insurance fee, tax, or a state fee to the amount of 15% of the compensation. The criminals used an instant money transfer system to steal money — anywhere between $500 and $13,500. One pensioner, for example, sent the scammers a few quick transfers totaling more than $3,800 using post office money transfer services, but it goes without saying that she failed to receive any «compensation».
Group-IB’s High-Tech Crime Investigation team provided technical support as part of the takedown operation. While examining the computers belonging to the criminals, the experts found databases containing personal data about the victims, information about the drugs they had bought, and scripts for scam phone conversations. The mobile devices used by the scammers contained irrefutable evidence of a coordinated fraud scheme and proof that the thieves had cashed out the stolen sums.
As a result of the special operation, 16 arrests were made: 7 «callers», that is scammers who contacted the victims by phone directly, and 7 «money mules», who helped the criminals withdraw and cash out the stolen money. Seven of the scammers have already been charged in court.