Spain’s national police have arrested 55 members of the ‘Black Panthers’ cybercrime group, including one of the organization’s Barcelona-based leaders.
The gang operated four specialized activity cells dedicated to social engineering, vishing (voice phishing), phishing and carding, having a highly organized structure.
The arrested leader coordinated the cells and recruited new members and silver mules.
“The criminal group consisted of a network structure, composed of interconnected and perfectly defined cells of action, whose distribution of tasks related to knowledge, accessibility to stolen information and experience”, we read in the police statement.
The gang’s ultimate goal was to perform SIM-swapping attacks, which involves transferring a target’s phone number to the attacker’s device. By porting the number, attackers now have access to the victim’s text messages and can use it to bypass 2FA protection on their bank accounts and drain them.
For SIM swapping, fraudsters used a combination of phishing, vishing and call forwarding to impersonate their targets when talking to mobile service provider customer service agents .
In some cases, the scammers even acted as service technicians for the local reseller offices of the targeted telecom companies, stealing the account credentials of their employees.
Once they had access to their targets’ bank accounts, they made multiple transfers to a network of “money mules” located on the Levantine coast.
According to investigators’ estimates, the “Black Panthers” managed to defraud at least 100 victims before their arrest, stealing 250,000 euros ($260,000) from them.
The police investigation also revealed that the “Black Panther” gang had an active presence on the dark web, where their “card” cell purchased identity and credit card numbers using cryptocurrency.
The scammers used the purchased information to buy various luxury goods from online shops and then resold them as second-hand items to unsuspecting buyers, thereby laundering the money.
During the police raids on seven houses, 45 SIM cards, 11 mobile phones, four laptops, a cryptocurrency hardware wallet and numerous documents relating to the crimes were found and confiscated.