Ten persons have been arrested in Bulgaria and Poland at the end of November as a result of a EUROPOL-supported investigation on a criminal network -active in the illegal production of skimming devices, payment cards counterfeiting and illegal cash withdrawals all over the EU. The investigation is still ongoing.
House searches in Bulgaria, also, uncovered two illegal production sites of skimming devices, ready to be fitted to many different types of ATMs (Automatic Telling Machines) used all over Europe. Several hundred counterfeit payment cards, raw card data, skimming devices, electronic equipment (micro cameras, PIN pads), and tools used for production of counterfeited credit cards, were also seized in both Bulgaria and Poland.
The successful operation was carried out by the Bulgarian Counter Organised and Serious Crime Directorate, in cooperation with the Polish and Austrian Police supported by Europol. With this operation, law enforcement prevented significant financial losses, which could easily have amounted to several thousand euros per cloned counterfeit card.
“The success of this operation would not have been possible without excellent cooperation between the Bulgarian, Polish and Austrian Law Enforcement Agencies and Europol”, says Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol.
Europol coordinated the operation and supported investigators through exchange of information, technical and forensic expertise as well as with operational analysis.
“Skimming” – the copying of a payment card’s magnetic stripe without the knowledge and consent of the card holder – generally takes place when a payment card is used at a genuine ATM or Point of Sale terminal by its cardholder. The data are then written (cloned) to new cards followed by illicit cash withdrawals, mainly taking place in countries other than where the cardholder resides.
The skimming devices are often used in conjunction with a pinhole camera or a fake pin pad to read the cardholder’s PIN at the same time. The advice to the public is to immediately inform the bank or police if anything unusual is spotted on or around the ATM machine or if there are possible signs of tampering, without using the machine.