Following a near year-long investigation, French police arrested nine people on Sunday who are allegedly responsible for bilking phone companies out of millions of dollars over the last decade.
The scheme, which is said to be the largest of its kind in France, involved several high-ranking mobile phone company employees who had access to private databases.
French investigators told the AFP that organizers of the crime syndicate paid insiders around $4 apiece for codes that unlock SIM cards. The fraudsters then turned around and sold these numbers on the Internet for around $35 each. People who purchased the codes were able to access any SIM card for their mobile phone, no matter where they were in the world.
“From there ensued a cascade of fraud,” said one of the chief investigators. “The pirates work for the (phone company) operators, they do whatever they want.”
He further noted that the “impressive” operation was “very well set up,” allowing the hackers to wire millions of dollars into tax-free accounts over nearly 10 years.
One of the employees who had been involved in the fraud since it began had been making more than $33,000 a month for the last decade, according to the news source.
French authorities began investigating the matter in 2009 after several phone companies started to notice issues with their security systems. Later this week, a local Marseille prosecutor will detail the charges that the nine criminals will face.
In related news, a group of leading mobile phone operators have recently agreed to accept a deal that will improve transparency for consumers, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The agreement will limit contract termination fees and force telecom operators to be more upfront about other penalties.
“The measures taken by electronic communications operators mark a first positive step toward strengthening consumer protection,” said officials with Arcep, a French telecommunications regulator.
Beecher Tuttle is a Web Editor for TMCnet. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.Edited by Tammy Wolf