Fraudsters Pose as Europol Chief in an Attempt to Steal Victims PayPal Account Details

 

The federal police's Computer Crime Unit is looking into an identity fraud case concerning Catherine De Bolle, the executive head of the EU's law enforcement organization Europol. Fraudsters are masquerading as the director of Europol, the European Union's law enforcement organization, to mislead individuals into providing their financial information. 

The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, popularly known as Europol, previously called European Police Office and Europol Drugs Unit, is a law enforcement agency of the European Union (EU) constituted in 1998 to properly manage criminal intelligence and counteract significant global organized crime and terrorism through coexistence among competent authorities of EU member states. The Agency has no executive powers, as well as its personnel, are not authorized to detain suspects or act without prior consent from appropriate authorities in the member states. 

According to the Brussels Times, Belgian police have obtained numerous reports of emails posing to have been from Catherine De Bolle, Europol's executive director. The email badmouths the receiver of child pornography and sex trafficking before allegedly stealing the recipient's PayPal account details. 

Catherine De Bolle took over as Europol's executive director in 2018, following Rob Wainwright, whose tenure ended on May 1, 2018. She was previously the top commissioner of the Belgian federal police (1 March 2012–1 May 2018) as well as the police chief of zone Ninove (2001–2012). 

Europol, which had expressed concerns against this type of scam in April, asked web users not to fall for this fraud once again. 

“Our executive director would never contact members of the public threatening individuals with opening a criminal investigation,” tweeted Europol, which does investigate lots of actual cybercrime. 

The email is written in French and the sender introduces itself to be a COPJ – communication by an officer of the judicial police – and commences as: 

“At the request of Ms. Catherine De Bolle, Commissioner General of the Federal Police, elected to the post of Director of Europol — Brigade for the Protection of Minors (BPM), we are sending you this invitation. […] We are initiating legal proceedings against you for child pornography, pedophilia, exhibitionism, cyber pornography, and sex trafficking.” 

This email sent to individuals intimidates the receiver with criminal prosecution if they do not respond within 72 hours. 

“After this deadline, we will be obliged to send our report to the deputy prosecutor at the high court in Créteil [a suburb of Paris] and a cybercrime specialist to establish an arrest warrant against you.” 

This wasn't the first instance where Director De Bolle's name is being used in a phishing scam. Another fraudulent email claimed her power, and that of her successor as commissioner-general of the federal police, Marc De Mesmaeker, in March of this year. 

Following the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center, 12,827 individuals in the United States reported being victims of "government impersonation scams" in 2020, leading to severe losses of about $110 million. 

Whereas on the other hand, Check Point analysts disclosed in April 2020 that perhaps a ransomware gang was incarcerating Android phones, alleging victims of owning sexually explicit material and asserting that their personally identifiable information had been transmitted to an FBI data center.

Among the most high-profile cloning frauds, one came in July 2020, where fraudsters stole over $118,000 in bitcoin by hacking more than 100 famous Twitter accounts, including those of then-Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and then-Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden.