You may have already received it. And on reading this email, you were no doubt surprised, even disconcerted. It is a “court summons”, often signed by the hand of the director general of the gendarmerie in person. General Christian Rodriguez has taken up his pen to warn you: you are in the crosshairs of specialized investigators who accuse you of misappropriation of minors, pedophilia, exhibitionism and consultation of child pornography videos on the Internet. Just that.
The officer, who plans to send your file to the Versailles prosecutor’s office (Yvelines), asks you to contact him within three days by writing to him… on a Gmail address. If you refuse, he threatens to file you as a sex offender and to send your file “to the media for dissemination”. “Your family, loved ones and all of Europe will see what you do in front of your computer. “Good guy, he will still offer you, in a second step, to pay a fine to avoid legal proceedings and problems. Phew!
150,000 reports and 300 complaints
This is, of course, a scam. It must be remembered: police and gendarmes do not write to people to warn them that they suspect them of serious offences. They pick them up at 6 a.m. and take them into custody. As for the director of the gendarmerie, he has not been carrying out an investigation for a long time. The crooks also usurped the identity of other police and gendarmerie or judicial officials, as the site notes. cyber malevolence.
This phishing campaign – or phishing – flooded the entire territory at the beginning of 2021. The Pharos platform received around 150,000 reports and 300 complaints were filed. In February 2022, the section specializing in cybercrime of the Paris public prosecutor’s office opened an investigation, entrusted to several police and gendarmerie services: the central office for the fight against cybercrime of the PJ, the research section of Versailles , the Nice research brigade, and the command of the gendarmerie in cyberspace.
“The question we asked ourselves at the start was whether there was one or more teams. We focused on a dozen facts and we investigated to see where it led us, “says 20 minutes Colonel Thomas Andreu, of the SR of Versailles. The investigators then realized “that there was no centralized structure, but about ten teams using the same know-how”, he continues. A year later, the investigations have taken a big step. Police and gendarmes carried out a large net on Monday. 19 suspects were arrested in Ile-de-France, Nantes, Le Mans, Toulouse, Sens (Yonne), Orléans, Nice, and the last in Belgium.
At the end of their police custody, fifteen of them were summoned before the criminal court to be tried for access and maintenance in a data system, fraud and laundering of fraud in an organized gang, indicated the prosecution of Paris, without specifying the date of the hearing. The suspects are between 20 and 50 years old. “You have different categories, explains Colonel Andreu. There are the little hands who open bank accounts either under their identity or with impersonated identities. There are what you might call N+1s, who control these accounts. And then you have people who send the emails”.
Many people fell for it and paid the scammers. “At the beginning, the victims paid a little less than 5,000 euros, which made it possible to pass below the radars of the banks. Then, once they had paid the first time, the scammers would ask them to pay other sums. It never stopped, ”said the head of the Versailles SR. Some victims paid them up to 90,000 euros. In total, the damage deducted from this phishing campaign is estimated at more than 3 million euros. The defrauded money was spent in France, but more generally sent to Ivory Coast and other African countries.
Suicides linked to the receipt of emails
More serious still. Investigators have counted six people who committed suicide after receiving these emails. “They were surely weaker psychologically than others, and did not support the psychological pressure created by this type of mail”, adds Colonel Andreu.
He observes that very many victims have paid “while they have nothing to reproach themselves for”. “There are elderly people who don’t really understand what it’s about, who don’t handle Internet tools. There are also people who are psychologically fragile, quite simply. You also have people who thought you had to pay to explain yourself afterwards. There are all scenarios. And there were also, indeed, people who had consumed child pornography. »