It is a very sophisticated scam that has just been dismantled by the gendarmerie. Five men were indicted Thursday in Île-de-France for organized fraud, after sending large-scale fraudulent SMS, we learned this Saturday from a police source. They are suspected of having sent more than 400,000 falsified SMS messages from Health Insurance, referring to a site impersonating that of Ameli.

Duped customers received an SMS inviting them to update their personal data by clicking on a link that directed them to the fake site. They were thus invited to enter their personal data, including, potentially, their bank details.

To steal the phone numbers, the suspects used an “IMSI-catcher”, a surveillance device usually used by intelligence services and the fight against organized crime, specifies franceinfo.

The principle of this fake station, contained in a small suitcase, is to create a virtual network powerful enough to force devices equipped with a SIM card to disconnect from their operator to hook onto this pirate network. The suspects used it in their car, in the Paris region, to steal cell phone numbers and send fraudulent SMS. The device is also capable of intercepting communications, and potentially the data of neighboring motorists.

Between September 2022 and February 2023, more than 420,000 customers from different telephone operators were affected. Last September, “a French telecommunications company” filed a complaint for scams and attempted scams, according to the police source, without specifying which one.

A banal traffic check advances the investigation

It was during a banal road check, on December 30, 2022, that the police discovered an “IMSI-catcher” in a car in Paris. The driver was immediately arrested. But the telecommunications company that filed the complaint finds that the fake base station initially spotted on their network is still working.

The gendarmes deduce that the crooks have several devices in circulation. The investigation intensifies and identifies six people who are part of the organized gang, another car with “IMSI-catcher” and a base in Noisy-le-Sec (Seine-Saint-Denis). Five of them were arrested on February 14 and indicted, including three placed in pre-trial detention.

On Thursday, the “J3-Junalco” judicial section of the Paris public prosecutor’s office opened a judicial investigation for “fraudulent introduction and extraction of data in an automated data processing system”, “organized gang scam” or even “unauthorized detention of ‘a technical device whose purpose is to capture computer data’.

The investigating judge will now seek to determine the extent of the fraud, and the precise number of victims.

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