The Spanish National Police have successfully dismantled a criminal organisation that specialised in exploiting unsuspecting victims through the notorious “emergency scam.”
The operation resulted in the arrest of 59 individuals allegedly involved in the scheme. These included high-ranking members of the organisation, supervisors, and recruiters. The group is believed to have fraudulently gained over €460,000 through their elaborate and deceptive tactics.
Details of the “emergency scam”
The criminal organisation operated by impersonating the distressed children of their potential victims using WhatsApp. By sending urgent messages, the perpetrators would request immediate financial assistance, claiming to be in the midst of an emergency. Moreover, the victims, often parents, were manipulated into transferring money under the false pretense of aiding their supposedly troubled offspring.
The investigation, conducted in collaboration with the anti-fraud unit of a banking institution, was initiated following a surge of complaints from victims across the country. The victims, scattered nationwide, reported falling prey to this particular form of fraud. The organisation’s deceptive approach involved meticulously researching potential victims through social media platforms, focusing on individuals whose children were studying abroad.
Targeting vulnerable victims
The criminal organisation’s structure included members dedicated to scouring social media for information on the potential victims’ children. Once identified, particularly when the young adults were away from their hometowns for educational purposes, the criminals gathered detailed information to enhance the credibility of their fraudulent communications.
Furthermore, the organisation had recruited individuals as “mules” to act as intermediaries for the fraudulent transactions. These “mules” would receive the money transferred by victims, taking a percentage as compensation, and then pass on the bulk of the funds to the recruiters. Moreover, the perpetrators managed to accumulate a substantial sum, estimated to exceed €460,000.
The criminal network operated on a pyramid-like structure, with “mules” forming the lower tier, responsible for receiving and withdrawing fraudulently obtained funds. Recruiters, positioned above the “mules,” played a pivotal role in introducing new members to the organisation. Supervisors, identified among the arrested individuals, coordinated and collected the defrauded money from the various scams.
Operation and arrests
The Policia Nacional successfully located the alleged perpetrators, primarily in Girona and Barcelona. The arrests were carried out in multiple locations, including Salt, Olot, Banyoles, Granollers, Hospitalet de Llobregat, Premià de Mar, and Mollet. Among those apprehended were three recruiters responsible for luring young individuals into participating in the scams or acting as “mules.”
Also read: “Child in distress” scam dismantled