Gardaí arrest six as part of major international investigation of fraud phonecalls
24th November 2022
AN GARDA SÍOCHÁNA has joined law enforcement groups from across the world to tackle cybercrime, resulting in six arrests in Ireland.
The effort involved police services in Europe, Australia, the United States, Ukraine, and Canada in a global criminal investigation which has taken down a website, iSpoof.cc, that allowed fraudsters to impersonate trusted corporations or contacts to access sensitive information from victims, a type of cybercrime known as ‘spoofing’.
The Operation has been led by the London Metropolitan Police.
On 8 November 2022, the website and server was seized and taken offline by US and Ukrainian authorities.
In support of this international operation, local divisional resources in Dublin, Meath and Louth coordinated activity on 8 and 9 November resulting in 17 searches (Dublin, Meath, Louth), 6 arrests including execution of 14 bench warrants and 132 electronic devices were seized.
64 suspect bank accounts were identified with the cooperation of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) supported by the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau (GNCCB).
This operation focused on the users of a website, iSpoof.cc, which is a website designed to allow persons to make telephone calls and send text messages from ‘spoofed’ numbers that appear to be from genuine telephone numbers.
The impersonated entities were typically bank fraud lines, government departments, policing organisation, business organisations or delivery companies.
It is believed that this server and website is used by persons to commit these type of frauds around the world, including by residents in Ireland targeting Irish residents.
The investigations showed that the website was potentially used by 21,000 users worldwide who are all suspected of being engaged in fraudulent activities using spoofed phone numbers.
London’s Met Police announced that around 40% of victims were in the United States, while more than a third were in the UK targeting 200,000 potential victims there alone.
Fraud detection agencies have so far recorded £48 million (€55 million) in losses in the UK alone, with the largest single theft £3 million and the average £10,000.
In the 12 months until August 2022 around 10 million fraudulent calls were made globally via iSpoof.
Law Enforcement estimate a worldwide loss to victims in excess of €115 million.
Speaking about An Garda Síochánas participation in this global law enforcement operation Assistant Commissioner Paul Cleary, Organised and Serious Crime said:
“Over recent months we are all aware of the proliferation of ‘spoof’ and scam phonecalls. An Garda Síochána, working with our International Law Enforcement partners, is playing our part in targeting and degrading the activities of Organised Crime Groups.”
“The activities earlier this month is the start of a significant investigation being led by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau which will bring those involved in these criminal activities in this jurisdiction before the courts here in Ireland.”
This was an evidence-gathering phase of the operation in Ireland and investigations are ongoing.