The police accused one person of 421 aggravated means of payment frauds in which Finnish people have lost more than one million euros in the recent years, said police in a press release on Monday.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Southwestern Finland Police Department completed the criminal investigation into online banking frauds by a man in his twenties, who has been remanded since December 2022.
The criminal investigation has been referred to the Prosecution District of Southern Finland for consideration of charges. Senior Specialised Prosecutor Katja Jokela has been appointed for the case.
According to the criminal investigation, the suspect carried out phishing attacks mainly against S-Bank customers in 2022.
“The phishing scams were carried out by means of fake bank websites. This case is just what people have been warned about, in other words, that online banks should never be logged into via links in text messages,” said the tactical leader of the investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Matti Airaksinen of the NBI.
All the offences investigated in the case were committed in a similar manner and mostly from abroad. The victims were deceived by sending them a text message containing a link to a fake bank website reminding a genuine online banking site. These messages were prepared so that they looked like being sent by the real bank.
The text messages implied that the matter was urgent and explained why the victim should log into their online bank without delay via the link in the message. The suspect had access to the victim’s banking codes when the victim visited the fake website and entered the codes to log into their online bank.
In summer 2022, the Southwestern Finland Police noticed a significant increase in phishing scams against S-Bank customers. They found out that most of the phishing site servers were located in Moldova.
“Our cooperation with Europol and the authorities of Moldova further supported our idea as to the technical method of commission of the offences and the fact that the offender was the same as in several other cyber-enabled banking frauds across Finland. The same young man was also connected with money laundering offences reported in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, the predicate offences of which included bank frauds,” said Cybercrime Investigation Team Leader, Detective Sergeant Jami Toivonen of the Southwestern Finland Police Department.
The Police Departments of Helsinki, Central Finland, Southwestern Finland and Eastern Uusimaa had been investigating offences with links to one and the same suspect, and in winter 2022 the criminal investigation was taken over by the investigation team of the NBI and the Southwestern Finland Police.
The suspect was apprehended in December 2022, and he has been remanded since on probable cause of aggravated means of payment frauds.
The police suspect that many money launderers aided in concealing the funds of bank fraud victims by transferring funds to foreign accounts and converting them to cryptocurrency. Funds were also circulated from the accounts that had been accessed by means of bank frauds.
“We believe that the main suspect also had a role in organising the laundering of the proceeds of crime. Besides accessing accounts through crime, several other people, including young people, were lured into the money laundering activity by belittling the responsibility involved it,” said Head of Investigation, Senior Detective Superintendent Jukkapekka Risu of the Helsinki Police Department.
The suspected money laundering offences were committed in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. They are investigated as separate cases mainly by the Helsinki and Eastern Uusimaa Police Departments. Some of the money laundering offences related to the case have already been investigated and considered by the court.
According to information available to the National Bureau of Investigation, Finnish people lost around ten million euros as a result of cyber-enabled bank frauds in 2021. In that same year, the police set up a national investigation team to tackle the phenomenon. In 2022, the amount of money lost by Finnish people almost halved.
- payment frauds