Ukrainian police bust call center that scammed about 18,000 foreigners

Ukrainian cybersecurity officials shut down an underground call center that defrauded thousands of residents of Kazakhstan, according to a statement published by Ukraine’s Cyber Police Department on Thursday.

Call center operators allegedly dialed their victims posing as bank employees and told them that their accounts had been compromised. After obtaining financial data that would purportedly prevent fraud, the scam operators transferred victims' money to controlled wallets, issued quick loans and sent the loan amounts to their accounts.

About 18,000 Kazakhstan citizens are among the victims of the scam. The police are still determining the total amount of damages.

The three founders of the call center allegedly used offshore bank accounts and cryptocurrency wallets to cover up their criminal activities. They employed 37 call center operators in Dnipro, Ukraine's fourth-largest city, police said, paying them interest from the stolen money.

The police have opened criminal proceedings and are continuing the investigation. If proven guilty, the founders of the call center – who have not been identified publicly – could face up to eight years in prison. 

In December, the police searched the office of the call center and the apartments of its founders, seizing computers, mobile phones, SIM cards, and databases with the personal data of Kazakh citizens, which the fraudsters used to embezzle money from their accounts.

The Ukrainian cyber forces investigated the incident in cooperation with law enforcement from Kazakhstan. 

Cybercriminals often use call centers to scam victims. In March, Latvian and Lithuanian police detained over 100 people in Riga and Vilnius involved in an international call center scam, which was generating around €3 million (about $3.2 million) in illegal profits every month. In January, Bulgarian authorities dismantled a network of call centers that defrauded German and Greek investors, who suffered losses of nearly €10 million (about $10.6 million).

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Daryna Antoniuk

Daryna Antoniuk is a freelance reporter for Recorded Future News based in Ukraine. She writes about cybersecurity startups, cyberattacks in Eastern Europe and the state of the cyberwar between Ukraine and Russia. She previously was a tech reporter for Forbes Ukraine. Her work has also been published at Sifted, The Kyiv Independent and The Kyiv Post.