At least 55 people were arrested by the Spanish National Police on Thursday for their alleged involvement in a wide-ranging cybercrime operation that involved phishing scams, SIM-swapping and more.
The group – which called itself the “Black Panthers” and was based in Barcelona – operated in four separate cells that stole about €250,000 from nearly 100 people through a variety of scams that involved the takeover of bank accounts.
In a statement, the Spanish National Police said they conducted raids on seven homes and found a range of cryptocurrency hardware, 45 SIM cards, 11 mobile phones, four laptops, a “high-end vehicle” and troves of documents related to the group’s scams. They noted that one of the leaders of the gang was among the 55 arrested.
One way the group conducted scams was through a practice called “SIM swapping” – where hackers contact a victim’s mobile telephone provider and convince them to port the victim’s phone number to the fraudster’s SIM card.
From there, the cybercriminals could circumvent two-factor authentication and take control of a victim’s bank account, allowing them to make fraudulent transfers. Police officials said the gang typically transferred funds to a network of mules spread throughout Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
“Vishing [voice phishing] was the most widely used technique to obtain duplicate SIM cards. They did it directly to well-known telephone and telecommunications companies in our country, posing as customers whose data they already had after having carried out phishing attacks on the employees of the telephone