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Police Dismantle Global Fraud Gang Behind Text Message Scams

The dismantled LabHost dark web service, which was behind fraud text scams, is said to have profited nearly $1.25 million.

The Police have successfully dismantled a criminal gang accused of exploiting a technology service to carry out fraudulent text message scams, resulting in the arrest of 37 individuals worldwide.

The operation, coordinated by law enforcement agencies across 17 countries, targeted a dark web service known as LabHost, allegedly used by criminals to orchestrate phishing scams. These scams involved sending deceptive text messages to victims, enticing them to make payments online to fake websites posing as legitimate online payment or shopping services.

According to authorities, the sophisticated technology employed by the gang allowed them to target victims indiscriminately, particularly exploiting younger individuals who are more susceptible to such phishing attempts due to their familiarity with internet usage.

The illicit activities facilitated by LabHost resulted in the theft of sensitive identity information, including 480,000 card numbers and 64,000 Pin codes, commonly referred to as “fullz data” in criminal circles.

While the exact amount stolen remains unknown, police estimate that the LabHost service generated profits of nearly £1 million ($1.25 million).

Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Dame Lynne Owens emphasised the prevalence of fraud in today’s digital age as she said, “You are more likely to be a victim of fraud than any other crime.”

She then underscored the authorities’ commitment to employing targeted strategies to combat online fraud, particularly those enabling international criminal operations.

National Economic Crime Centre director Adrian Searle echoed Dame Owens’ sentiments, highlighting the role of technology in facilitating large-scale criminal activities. He emphasised how LabHost provided individuals lacking technical expertise with readily available tools to perpetrate fraud against victims in the UK and beyond.

The success of the operation was the culmination of a two-year investigation involving various law enforcement agencies, including the Metropolitan Police, National Crime Agency, and City of London Police. In the UK alone, 24 suspects were arrested, with operations conducted at airports in Luton and Manchester.

The discovery of the gang’s activities in 2022 by the Cyber Defence Alliance, a group of investigators funded by UK financial institutions to combat cybercrime on the dark web, underscores the importance of collaborative efforts in combating sophisticated criminal networks.

An official from the Cyber Defence Alliance emphasised the necessity of building a robust network to counter criminal activities effectively, warning of the overwhelming challenges posed by criminal networks without concerted efforts to combat them.

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi

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