‘Official’ website netted €8 million in fake fees

Fake website took €8 million

Some of the seizures made by investigators. Credit: Guardia Civil.es

An official-looking website that promised to issue everything from European health cards to Foreigner IDs was run by a criminal organisation that scammed thousands of unsuspecting victims.

A report issued on Thursday, March 21, detailed how the Guardia Civil recently apprehended three individuals in Madrid, Valdemoro, and Valladolid, revealing a scam that amassed up to €8 million through a website offering fraudulent administrative services.

Fake website uncovered

This scheme flourished amid the pandemic, which took advantage of the surge in online administrative dealings.

The fraudsters created a portal that closely resembled official government sites, complete with authentic fonts, insignias, and flags. Authorities estimate that up to 150,000 people were duped into paying between €19 and €89 for non-existent services.

The charges were for a variety of procedures, including obtaining registration certificates, foreigner identification numbers and European health cards among others, which are actually free of charge.

Exposing the scam

The investigation was sparked by a complaint from a resident of Baeza, Jaen, who had been swindled while applying for a registration certificate online.

The complaint revealed a complex operation that had been active since the lockdowns of 2020, highlighting how the criminals used the pandemic to bolster their illicit activities.

Laundering the loot

At the closure of the operation, the Guardia Civil seized €1 million from the scammers’ bank accounts, alongside 111 real estate properties, luxury watches and 13 vehicles purchased with the fraudulent gains.

The operation uncovered a network of 35 companies used to launder the money through numerous bank transfers, further confusing the trail of the illicit funds.

Moreover, another €1.5 million were found to have been siphoned off to bank accounts in the United States, adding to the complex investigation.

The Guardia Civil’s diligent investigation has not only brought the perpetrators to justice but also highlighted the need for vigilance in the digital age, especially during times of crisis.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.