IT is a scam that is being used around the world, and that can catch out even the most vigilant citizen. Known as “Hi Mum!”, or in Spanish hijo en apuros (son in trouble), the method involves imitating someone’s child via text message in a bid to con them out of money. 

In Spain, a cybercrime gang that was using the method has just been busted by the Policia Nacional, with 65 arrests made in Malaga, Catalunya and Madrid, including two of the ringleaders. 

The investigation came after 95 police reports were filed by people who had fallen for the gang’s tricks, with a total economic loss to the victims of €410,000. 

As well as the arrests, raids turned up a laptop on which investigators found as many as 500 spreadsheets with personal information about potential victims. 

The modus operandi of these fraudsters is to send out messages claiming to be someone’s son or daughter, and convincing them that they are in trouble and need to be sent money, usually via bank transfer. 

The probe began in February 2022, when the police detected a rise in the number of victims of the scam in Sevilla. 

Warning over holiday rental scams in southern Spain: Three are arrested for 'defrauding unsuspecting tourists out of tens of thousands of euros'
Warning over holiday rental scams in southern Spain: Three are arrested for ‘defrauding unsuspecting tourists out of tens of thousands of euros’

Police followed the trail to Malaga province, and located a cell made up of individuals acting under the orders of the upper echelons of the organisation. 

This led to the detection of more members of the gang in other parts of Spain, carrying out tasks such as collectors and technological ‘mules’.

The first arrest took place in August 2023 in Torremolinos, Malaga, when a Dutch national considered to be one of the ringleaders was arrested by the Policia Nacional. 

Searches of his home turned up a laptop and cellphone that revealed the workings of the gang. 

Another Dutch national was arrested in Fuengirola, Malaga in November of last year, along with his close colleagues, who were also from the Netherlands. 

As well as the 65 arrests just made, the police have managed to identify 221 other individuals who were connected to the gang, both in Spain and abroad. The operation will continue on the expectation that more police reports from victims will be filed. 

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