A cybercrime syndicate accused of a series of sophisticated online scams alongside a money laundering operation using fake IDs has been disrupted after a number of arrests in Australia.
Four alleged members of the syndicate were arrested in Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne on Thursday, accused of helping to launder $1.7 million in stolen cash from Australian and overseas victims.
The operation involved more than 15 cybercrime incidents over a three year period to March 2023, Australian Federal Police believe.
The syndicate came to the AFP’s attention in October 2021 when an Indonesian company lost more than $100,000 in a business email compromise attack.
These scams typically involve criminals taking control of an a business email account and using it to send legitimate looking payment requests or invoices with altered account details, AFP Commander Chris Goldsmid said.
“Business email compromise has become a particularly prominent cyber threat, which is why the AFP…remains focused on protecting Australians who are being targeted in these attacks,” he said.
Money was funnelled out of the country using some 80 bank accounts set up with stolen identities, investigators believe.
Officers identified two Brisbane women, a Melbourne man and an Adelaide man who allegedly laundered proceeds from the cyber scams as part of the syndicate linked to South Africa.
Warrants were issued for properties across the country on Thursday and fake passports, international driver licences and luxury handbags were seized.
The four were arrested and face charges including possessing false documents and dealing in proceeds of crime worth $100,000 or more.
As well as the business email attacks, the syndicate is accused of scams targeting Facebook Marketplace users and fraudulent superannuation investments.
The Marketplace scams involved selling good and services that don’t exist, Commander Goldsmid said.
Individual losses across all the scams ranged from between $2500 to nearly $500,000.
About $1.1 million was allegedly laundered to bank accounts in South Africa, where associates of the group are believed to have sourced legitimate identity documents before altering photos and birth dates for the Australian members.
Most of the documents belonged to people living in South Africa, some of whom were Australian citizens.
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