Police in Britain busted up a 14-person cybercrime gang accused of fleecing a single victim out of her $1.6 million life savings.
Arrested in early morning raids last Thursday (March 15) in London and the West Midlands, the 12 men and two women were detained for their alleged part in the scheme, which involved sending rigged emails, to the victim, ZDNet reported, tricking her into essentially handing over her bank account credentials to a fake banking website set up by the scammers.
When the victim, a United Kingdom citizen living abroad, entered her login credentials, the cybercriminals were able to siphon her savings. The Metropolitan Police Central e-crime Unit (PCeU) said the 14 people passed the stolen funds off to money mules, who took a cut, anywhere from 9,000 to 75,000 pounds, before passing the cash off again to the masterminds of the massive phishing scam.
In all, the phishing gang made off with a total of 1 million pounds (about $1.6 million).
"The stolen money was spent over a three-day period, after suspects embarked on a spending spree during the Christmas sales," the PCeU told ZDNet. The suspects are said to have spent the laundered cash on big-ticket items like computers and gold bars, all the way down to cheeseburgers.
"This is an example of how cybercrime creates real victims through the indiscriminate actions of the criminals involved," PCeU detective inspector Stewart Garrick said in a statement. "The victim in this case has suffered significant stress after her life savings — which she intended to use to purchase a property on her return to England — were stolen."
A lesson to learn from this incident is to never trust unsolicited emails, especially any message purporting to have important financial information. If you receive a suspicious email that asks for your banking credentials, delete it; if you have a question relating to your finances, contact your bank by phone or in person.