A Barcelona-based gang emptied out people’s bank accounts by tricking phone shops to give them replacement phone SIM cards.

Eight people have been arrested in Barcelona and one in Sevilla by the Policia Nacional.

The fraudsters hijacked personal details of victims with bogus messages on phone apps, known as ‘phishing’.

That information was used in visits to phone shops to fool employees into providing the replacement SIM cards.

Shop staff were even shown a photocopy of a replacement DNI identity document the crooks had ordered.

An appropriate gang member that came closest to matching the ID document photo was chosen to go into a store.

The illegally-obtained cards were then put into their own handsets to clear out bank accounts.

The Policia Nacional’s investigation started in March last year after two complaints over fraudulent bank transfers in different parts of Spain.

Two people said somebody had accessed their online banking facilities to carry out transactions.

A tell-tale sign was that as soon as the gang got the new SIM card, the victims lost their mobile phone service.

The crooks transferred money to banks across Europe to launder the defrauded cash.

The Policia Nacional have not revealed how many accounts were hacked or how much money was stolen.

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