Europol smashes global ATM skimmer ring

Operation Neptune has cracked down on ATM skimming crime across Europe and beyond.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

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Europol has hunted down and arrested the alleged key members of a criminal ring dedicated to ATM skimming.

On Thursday, the international law enforcement agency said that as part of a joint law enforcement push dubbed "Operation Neptune," four Bulgarian citizens were arrested on 30 November.

Involving the Italian Carabinieri, the Bulgarian General Directorate of Combating Organised Crime, the National Police of Czech Republic, and Europol's European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), Neptune focused on honing in on the leaders of an ATM skimming ring that spread beyond Europe.

According to Europol, the alleged leaders of the group not only tampered with ATMs in central European cities to skim the card details of residents and tourists alike, but also used this information to produce fake credit cards to cash out money from ATMs in countries outside of the bloc including Belize, Indonesia, and Jamaica.

"Dozens" of ATMs have been identified as been tampered with through the ring, according to law enforcement, which includes through the use of small, barely noticeable cameras and magnetic strip readers that steal the information necessary to create counterfeit cards.

In addition, over 1,000 fake credit cards were seized and evidence related to fraudulent international transactions reaching over €50,000 was discovered during the operation.

The operation has been in motion since late 2015.

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"Working closely with the banking sector, law enforcement made another significant step towards making electronic transactions safer in the European Union," Europol commented.

With so many ATMs aging and running on legacy or outdated operating systems, compromising them is far too easy.

There are many techniques that criminals use to disguise their activities, such as using equipment that is difficult to detect or infiltrating the innards of an ATM itself with the help of a screwdriver, drill, and some malware, but this is not the first time law enforcement has spotted and eradicated such activities.

Back in May, Europol arrested 27 people suspected of running an ATM jackpotting scheme, which involved compromising ATMs to dispense cash fraudulently.

Jackpotting involves connecting an ATM's inner system to a laptop or mobile device to melt away the ATM network's defenses and force the system to hemorrhage cash.

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