108 people have been detained on suspicion of being involved in investment fraud related ‘vishing’ activities from international call centres in Riga, Latvia and Vilnius, Lithuania. The suspects are accused of defrauding victims across the world.
‘Vishing’, also known as ‘voice phishing’, is the criminal practice of using social engineering over the telephone system to gain access to private personal and financial information from the public for the purpose of financial reward.
The operation was carried out by the Latvian State Police (Valsts policija) and the Lithuanian Police (Lietuvos Policija), supported by Europol and Eurojust. On 24 and 25 March 2022 hundreds of officers, including special intervention teams, raided three call centres belonging to the same organised crime group (OCG). The OCG controlled up to 200 fake ‘traders’, speaking English, Russian, Polish and Hindi. These fraudsters would call unsuspecting victims promising lucrative investment opportunities and persuading them to part with their savings. The promoted investments in bitcoin, commodities, and foreign currencies were all fake. It is estimated that the fraudsters were monthly making profits of €3 million from the scam.
The coordinated police operation resulted in:
- The detention of 80 people in Latvia and 28 in Lithuania
- The seizure of cash, bank accounts and luxury vehicles
- The seizure of €95,000 in cryptocurrencies
Europol’s European Financial and Economic Crime Centre (EFECC) supported the investigation by bringing together the national investigators from Latvia and Lithuania to establish a joint strategy and to organise the intensive exchange of evidence needed to prepare for final phase of the investigation. Europol experts from both the EFECC and the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) were deployed to Latvia and Lithuania to assist the national authorities with the action days.
Eurojust supported the investigation by setting up a joint investigation team (JIT) into the case within one week and organising a rapid coordination meeting. Further assistance was given with the execution of a European Investigation Order during the action day.
The EAST Expert Group on Payment and Transaction Fraud (EPTF), which meets three times each year, focuses on the prevention of payment and transaction fraud, including investment fraud and ‘vishing’. The 11th EAST EPTF meeting took place on 10 November 2021.