Highly sophisticated European criminals have been using 3D printers to operate on the wrong side of the law. In recent days authorities in Spain and Bulgaria took down organized crime members who hatched and executed a plan to gain financial information illicitly and print fake cards to remove illegal funds from ATMs. They also 3D printed equipment to manufacture fake plastic card slot bezels to be installed on ATMs and to manipulate POS terminals.
Running this operation in Italy, France, Spain, Germany, and Turkey, the criminal network was involved in:
- ATM skimming
- Electronic payment fraud
- Forgery of documents
Called ‘Operation Imperium,’ Spanish and Bulgarian authorities, collaborating with Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) in The Hague, searched 40 homes and made 31 arrests involving individuals running eight different labs. They confiscated over one thousand devices, with items including:
- 3D printers
- Flash drives
- Micro camera bars
- Card readers
- Magnetic strip readers
- Plastic card templates
In recent years, there have been arrests similar to this. With weapons and drug trafficking highest on the list of crime issues, credit card scamming has always been a pesky thorn in the side as well. Criminals have used 3D printing to manufacture items for credit card fraud, guns, and even smaller items such as keys for anything you can imagine, including police handcuffs. To take things further, and in line with the ‘sharing’ and ‘community’ of 3D printing, they have even gone so far as to post their 3D printing designs online so that anyone can take part in illicit activity.
The Head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), Troels Oerting, is congratulating the law enforcement colleagues in Bulgaria and Spain for their excellent work in disrupting this crime ring. He stated:
“We’ve hit another international organised payment crime network, which sends a strong signal to cybercriminal groups active in this field. This is a great example of effective joint efforts between EU Member States and EC3 to protect customers and their electronic transactions across the European Union. It also shows that police as well as other law enforcement authorities in the EU are putting Europol’s unique tools to very good use to make electronic payment transactions safer. At the same time this successful case proved a very good use of the J-CAT framework which helped in the final stages of investigation.”
While credit card fraud, skimming, theft, and similar crimes have us all watching our wallets, online accounts, and guarding our PIN numbers, there’s only so much we can do to protect ourselves. Criminals are unpredictably creative–and resourceful in getting what they want. Unfortunately, 3D printing is an equal opportunity outlet for revolutionizing different sectors, and organized crime has the funds and the motivation to master and take advantage of new technology. Have you heard of any scams like this in your area? Tell us about it in the European Crime Network forum at 3DPB.com.