In spring and summer 2021, the Finnish police detected an online fraud scheme in which criminals are phishing for online banking codes for malicious purposes.
The police have set up a national investigation team to tackle this crime.
According to police information, this particular crime series relates to the online banking fraud scheme on which the National Bureau of Investigation released information in June 2021.
It is typical of these offences that criminals gain access to victims' online banking details and then unlawfully transfer money from their accounts.
Criminals have targeted several banks and their customers in Finland. The police have filed approximately 700 reports of fraud and means-of-payment fraud in 2021. The first victims of phishing and subsequent fraud were senior citizens, but now people of all ages have become victims.
The total criminal damages amount to about seven million euros, the police say.
Modus operandi is twofold
When the modus operandi was analysed, it turned out that criminals commit the offences in two phases.
First, they phish for online banking codes through malicious links within text messages or emails, or with the help of search engine optimisation. Victims click on these links assuming that they are logging into their own online bank, while actually giving their banking details to criminals on a malicious website.
Next, criminals start to use the stolen banking details. The police have identified two main ways of operation. The first one is to add money transfers to the list of unconfirmed payments on victims' online bank accounts. Ignorant victims then confirm the payments with their signature codes or, if they have doubts, try to log into their own banks through the fake website.
The other, more sophisticated way is to add criminals' own devices to the list of approved devices on victims' bank accounts, after which fraudsters are able to confirm payments themselves.
Due to the seriousness and scale of the online banking fraud scheme and the criminal phenomenon in general, the police have taken joint action to tackle and prevent the crime.
"The police have set up a national investigation team for a fixed period of time. All local police departments have their representatives in the team, which is led by the National Bureau of Investigation," says Chief Superintendent Tuomas Pöyhönen of the National Police Board.
The members of the national investigation team are specialised in investigating cybercrime, tracking movements of money and tracing criminal proceeds. They also have expertise in international mutual legal assistance procedures that need to be followed to prevent the phenomenon and investigate the cases.
The main goal of the team is to identify the suspect and establish criminal liability. It is also important to prevent any damage caused by crime and to develop nationwide, uniform operational models, while taking account of crime prevention goals and the fight against the phenomenon in general.
"Unfortunately, online fraud is a widespread and very harmful criminal phenomenon. That is why it was necessary and justified to set up a national investigation team to effectively fight the phenomenon. It is of utmost importance to prevent criminal acts, raise public awareness and alertness about the modus operandi, and to enhance cooperation between those involved, such as the banks and the police, to minimise criminal damages," says the tactical leader of the team, Senior Detective Superintendent Mikko Kiiski of the National Bureau of Investigation.
Police advise to avoid fraud:
- When accessing your banking website, do not click links within unsolicited text messages or emails or the search results returned by search engines.
- Bookmark your banking website or add it to Favourites.
- The safest way is to use your bank's mobile app.
- Share information about the phenomenon with your family and friends.
- If you believe that criminals have got your online banking details or if you detect unsolicited incoming or outgoing payments on your account, it is extremely important that you contact your bank straightaway and then report the crime to the police.