Masterminds behind prolific CEO fraud ring arrested

It took two years and a collaborative effort of French, Belgian, Romanian and Israeli law enforcement agencies to take down an organised crime group that was behind at least 24 cases of CEO fraud across Europe, Europol has announced.

CEO fraud arrests

In a previous action, members of the ring (including money mules) had been arrested in France and Belgium, and everything pointed to the ring leader(s) hiding in Israel.

Today, the EU law enforcement agency said that these four main suspects were arrested by the French National Gendarmerie – Section de Recherches of Bordeaux and the Israeli Lahav 433 Unit in different locations in Israel.

“This investigation is the follow-up of systematic operational activities initiated in 2016 when two French companies fell victim to CEO fraud, incurring an estimated EUR 1.2 million financial loss,” the agency shared.

All in all, the group caused over EUR 18 million worth of damage to the Belgian and French-based commercial companies they targeted.

“Incidents of CEO fraud (where the impersonation of CEOs is a key part of the modus operandi) have increased significantly in recent years and we are now at a point where EU-based companies are being swindled out of hundreds of million euros every year,” said Europol Deputy Executive Director of Operations Wil Gemert.

“Since the fraudsters often operate from outside the EU, it is only with internationally coordinated operations and a strong focus on asset recovery that we can achieve meaningful successes in the fight against this crime.”

CEO fraud, also known as business email compromise (BEC) scam, is on the rise for some quite time.

Business email compromise is a social engineering attack that leverages authority and trust, and social networks and free cloud email services make it simple for cybercriminals to identify their targets, create an email account that impersonates a trusted entity (CEO, brand, partner) and then create a believable con with personalised details to make these attacks successful.