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This is how the gang operated that posed as relatives of its victims to obtain money

At least five people were arrested this Thursday, August 18, in raids carried out by the National Civil Police (PNC) and the Public Ministry (MP), to dismantle a gang of scammers who used social networks to steal identities, contact their victims making them believe that they were relatives in the United States and thus obtain money through scams.

The detainees were identified as Carlos Arnoldo Gálvez Zuleta, Lester Ricardo Donis Castañeda, José Rolis Gómez Contreras, Edwin Ariel Soto Pérez and Leonardo Ismael Argueta, accused of the crimes of own fraud and laundering of money or other assets.

According to Jorge Aguilar, spokesman for the PNC, this criminal cybercrime gang had stolen identities and had obtained hundreds of thousands of quetzales, according to the first data from the investigation, through scams on social networks.

He reported that the members of the criminal gang used social networks such as Facebook to obtain photos and data of possible victims.

He explained that in social networks, many people are used to sharing details and images of their family, trips, achievements and other personal information, which was used by criminals to steal information.

the scams

According to the authorities, after stealing the identity of the people, the criminals contacted their victims through Facebook or Messenger and made them believe that they were relatives of them living abroad.

After gaining the trust of people, they asked them for their WhatsApp contact to communicate more directly and thus carry out their scams.

The criminals told people that they would send them a package with some valuable gifts and that they would be contacted by the transport company or a customs agent so that they could pick it up.

Another member of the gang communicated with the victims and pretended to be employees of customs and parcel companies and told people that the box that their family member had sent them contained valuable things and that to remove it they had to pay a certain amount. amount of money and deposit it into a bank account.

On occasions, the excuse given by the criminals was that they had detected money in cash inside the parcel, and that it was necessary to pay a fine so that it could leave customs.

According to Jorge Aguilar, there have been people who have been victims of this type of scam and have even paid up to Q75,000 to get the package that they had supposedly been sent.

He asked the population to verify that what he publishes on his social networks and that it is not something that can be used by this type of cybercriminals.

He also said that people should be cautious and have alternative ways to communicate with their relatives abroad, have passwords for conversations and thus verify that they are not criminals trying to defraud them.

He said that if at any time you receive messages of this type, do not hesitate to file a complaint with the Department of Financial and Economic Crimes or the Department against Cybercrime of the PNC.

they wanted to swindle him

Carlos Ávila is an expert accountant who recently fell victim to a group of cybercriminals who tried to scam him.

counted to Free Press Y Guatevision that one day he received a message on WhatsApp from an unknown number and in it they wrote his name and asked him if he knew who was writing to him, to which he replied no.

Ávila was already aware of the scams of this type and decided to play along with the criminals.

He added that in another message they asked him if he remembered someone who had recently traveled to the United States, and he answered yes, and invented that a cousin had migrated a few months ago and gave them the name.

The criminals answered yes, that it was she who was communicating and that she was glad to hear from him again.

For several days the criminals told him things about life in the United States and how well he was doing there, but they avoided personal topics. Shortly after, they informed him that they would send him some suitcases with new computers and cell phones to sell in Guatemala so he could earn money.

A few days later he was contacted by a supposed customs agent who told him that his cousin in the United States, and gave him her name, had sent him a suitcase with technology items and that it was necessary to deposit Q5 thousand to a bank account, in order to pay. the taxes of the products that had been sent to him.

Ávila no longer responded and received several messages during other days, but finally the criminals gave up.

3 thousand 500 complaints in the year

According to the records of the Public Ministry (MP) in the last 31 months, 12,650 complaints have been filed for illegal acts committed through Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

According to the breakdown of data from the MP, from January 1 to August 9, 2022, some 3,554 complaints have been registered for diversity of illegal acts that are committed through the aforementioned applications, said figure reflects that they are approximately 506 complaints filed monthly.

The locations where these crimes are committed the most are: Guatemala with 1,316 complaints, followed by Quetzaltenango with 219, Alta Verapaz with 177 and Chiquimula with 172, according to data provided by the MP.

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