For the past two months, I've been looking into a fairly big scammers' network. They operate in the Netherlands, but they launder the money in Belgium and possibly Romania. Here's the story and a question.
It started when i saw an ad for a €600 laptop:
This ad is obviously a scam. The actual price of this thing is over €3500. The ad says they have a store and they're closing it. Therefore they try to get rid of the inventory and they're selling cheap. The problem is, i know this store and i know the owner. And i know the store doesn't sell laptops or anything else that they were advertising.
So what do you do? I contacted the owner of the store to tell her she was being used as a proxy-address for cyberscammers. And i contacted the scammer to see what i could find out. That's where it gets interesting. The first time i tried to contact him, he didn't want anything to do with me. The ads started disappearing so that was a loose end. But three days later, they started appearing again. Different store, different bank account, different name. So i contacted them again and got their IBAN; their bank account number. I kept doing this for a while and at some point i had 8 different bank accounts. I transferred them all one cent with the message: 'You're doing cybercrime, i know who you are, mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org'
Four people replied.
The first scammer went to the police and took a lawyer.
The second scammer says she's already quit the whole thing, but i never heard anything else from her.
The third scammer starts threatening me, telling me he knows my name and he'll figure out where i live. He doesn't know my name. He also sends a picture of about €2300 in cash with a middlefinger:
The last scammer replies with something way more interesting:
He tells me how he got into it, how much money he makes and best of all, he tells me where the money is going.
So here's how they work:
- The find people on another dutch site with sex-ads. They find people with generally low IQ's and either debts or money needs there.
- They offer them to scam people online, giving them all the resources and helping them.
- The people that do the actual scamming are getting about €3000 per week. They can keep 10% of the money netting them €300 a week.
- The rest of the money goes to a Belgian bank account, on the name of a woman. He sent me a complete copy of her passport.
- In Belgium, the money is transferred to multiple accounts abroad. There they buy bitcoins with them.
- They've been doing this since at least 2016
So there's a woman that gets a lot of money on a bank account in Belgium and she sent her passport. That probably means she's victim of identity theft. So it was time to look for this woman. But that took a while. For a month I'd been searching for her with no luck. The phone number i found wasn't answering, the e-mail i found wasn't either. After making a lot of calls to different people that may know her, finally someone came with useful information. This woman is mentally handicapped. I called her healthcare facility and after three days of mailing them and trying to convince them, they helped this woman out. I got a call from her mentor, telling me that she isn't sure whether she wants to contact me or not. A day later i got a call from the police. They want me to put everything I've found in a file and they'll start researching.
The big question is, what to do next? The ads are still showing up every once in a while. I called the banks of all the scammers already, advising them to block the accounts. But they keep opening new accounts and this woman is probably not the only victim of identity theft. And if they abuse mentally handicapped people, that's pretty sick.
Edited 8/31/2018 14:18:27