Police in the Netherlands have arrested 14 suspects who are charged with acting as mules, helping phishers transfer stolen funds by lending them their bank accounts to initiate funds transfers to Russia and other countries.
According to press reports, fraudsters based in Russia and Ukraine set up bogus ABN Amro websites to harvest customers' security details - information which was used to access accounts and steal money.
Several of these sites were hosted on the Russian Business Network, an ISP which is notorious for hosting illegal and dubious businesses, including phishing and malware distribution sites. The stolen funds were then allegedly placed in the bank accounts of the 14 ABN Amro customers, and these mules subsequently transferred the money overseas to Russia and other countries.
"The Dutch police have sent a strong message to cybercriminals of all kinds - any participation in this kind of illegal activity won't be tolerated. While these 14 suspects may not have actually carried out the phishing attacks themselves, they played a key role in the crime by allowing the fraudsters to use their bank accounts," said Mark Harris, global director of SophosLabs. "However, in these situations it can be tricky to prove the deliberate involvement of the account holder as it's quite easy for them to claim they're simply the victim of identity theft. These arrests represent an important step in the right direction and should deter anyone trying to earn a quick buck from engaging in this type of activity."