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International Card Fraud Gang Dismantled in Romania

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An operation involving cross-border collaboration and supported by Europol has dismantled an international organized crime group based in Romania. The gang had been carrying out payment card fraud in several EU countries including Poland, Romania, Sweden and the UK.

Romanian law enforcement authorities, working in cooperation with the Europol, the European Law Enforcement Agency, arrested five members of the criminal gang after months of surveillance. The gang’s activities had involved fraudulently withdrawing cash from ATM machines with illegally skimmed and counterfeit payment cards. The card holders in countries including Poland, Romania, Sweden and the UK are said to have suffered substantial losses according to a press release issued by Europol on Wednesday.

Skimming, the copying of payment card data from the magnetic strip, is just one of a number of ways that fraudsters use to illegally withdraw money from the bank accounts of unsuspecting victims. Card numbers can be taken at ATM’s or at payment terminals by the use of a skimming device and a pinhole camera or fake pin pad. Card fraud is a global problem and members of the public are advised to contact the bank or the police immediately if they suspect or see anything suspicious.

The investigation in Romania involved officers searching the premises of 14 addresses in several cities, including Pitesti, Galati and Vaslui. Romanian police seized large amounts of cash (EUR 50 000, USD 50 000 and GBP 18 000), as well as goods illegally purchased by the suspects.

Agents from the Prosecutor's Office of the Romanian Counter Organised and Serious Crime Directorate (DIICOT) and the Romanian Cyber Crime Unit of the Brigade of Countering Organised Crime (BCCO) acted on intelligence provided by Polish Police from the Regional Headquarters of Police in Lublin.

Europol supported the operation throughout having played a central role since its initial involvement in March 2010. It has provided much of the technical expertise and operational analysis and acted as a coordinator for the exchange of information between countries and agencies. Meetings were held in Europol headquarter offices in the Hague where investigators and prosecutors from Poland, Romania and Sweden came together to discuss aspects of the case including the arrest of several members of the same criminal gang in Poland.

The level of cross-border cooperation seen during this operation is testimony to the efforts required in tackling crimes that span several countries. With a central communication hub through which information can flow, provided in this case by Europol, it has been shown that highly organized gang carrying out international crimes can be disrupted.

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