France: Victims lose €3.5m in scam accusing them of viewing child abuse images

Source: 6/23/23

Eighteen arrests in France and one in Belgium over false emails threatening people with prosecution

Police in France and Belgium say they have smashed a criminal ring that used fake court summonses accusing people of viewing child sexual abuse images to extort at least €3.5m (£3m).

The phishing scam involved false emails from police, judges or institutions such as Europol threatening victims with prosecution unless they paid a “fine”.

Police said they arrested 18 people in France and one in Belgium in an operation on Monday, with all but three of the suspects ordered to appear in court on fraud charges.

One of the victims – who had been stung twice by the crooks – took their own life, and six others may have also potentially killed themselves, police said on Friday.

“We thought that the fraud was being run by one central structure,” said Col Thomas Andreu, the head of one of the special French police units. “However, it turned out to be several little teams which were not linked.”

The sums extracted from the victims ranged from less than €5,000 to up to €200,000, he said.

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