Massive Ransomware Scam Discovered by Police

Dennis Faas's picture

Europol has arrested 11 people for allegedly posing as the same police organization that has now picked them up. The alleged scammers are said to have posed as Europol in an attempt to trick people into handing over money.

Europol is a police agency that operates across national borders.

The scam is known as ransomware, which involves spreading malicious software and demanding victims pay a fee to have that software removed. The most common version of the scam involves making false claims that files will be deleted from the computer unless the user pays up.

Victims 'Fined' For Illegal Content

This version of the scam was slightly different. The malware displayed a message purporting to come from Europol and claiming that the user had accessed illegal material online, such as copyright-infringing movie files. It then told the user to pay a 100 euro (approx US$134) fine.

That wasn't the end of the scam, however. If the victim paid up, the scammers had access to the credit card details used in the payment.

They then used these details to produce copies of the cards and withdraw money from ATMs in Spain before sending it through a money laundering chain winding up in Russia.

Only an estimated three per cent of people targeted by the scam paid up, but the sheer number of people targeted meant the scam's revenue quickly added up. In fact, the group is thought to have made more than 1 million euros. (Source:

The scheme was particularly sophisticated: the gang used 48 different "flavors" of the original malware, drastically increasing their chances of getting past anti-virus software.

Ransomware Scam An International Operation

The real Europol says a Russian man it arrested in the United Arab Emirates in December 2012 is the scam's ringleader. Officials say they have also arrested 10 other people involved in the scam, including Russians, Georgians, and Ukrainians.

Six of the 10 have already been charged, with the rest under ongoing investigation. (Source:

Although the police operation involved multiple countries, it appears that the accused men will eventually be sent for trial in Spain, where the credit card withdrawals took place and where at least some of the servers used to run the scam were physically located.

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