topics has arrived. And it’s making criminals millions.
An organized scamming operation composed of 40 groups operating in Europe, post-Soviet satellite countries and the U.S. made “at least” $6.5 million in 2020, according to a report from Group-IB, a Singapore-based topics company.
The automated scam-as-a-service operation, dubbed “Classiscam,” by Group-IB, is designed to steal money and payment data, Group-IB said.
The scheme uses Telegram bots that provide scammers with ready-to-use pages that imitate the brand names of popular international classifieds and marketplaces, including Leboncoin, Allegro, OLX, FAN Courier and Sbazar, Group-IB said, adding that it has sent notifications alerting all of the affected brands.
Telegram bots, typically innocuous, are Telegram accounts operated by software (not people) and they often have AI features, according to Telegram.
About 20 groups operate in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Poland, Romania, the U.S. and post-Soviet countries, while 20 more groups work in Russia, Group-IB said.
The scheme, which initially targeted popular delivery brands, is now “growing rapidly” in other regions around the world, Group-IB said.
“Having fine-tuned their operations in European countries…scammers are now trying to win the U.S. market,” a Group-IB spokesperson told Fox News in an email.
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“Classiscam’s popularity lies in its simplicity and ability to scale the scam,” the Group-IB spokesperson said.
“The automated management…through Telegram chat bots constantly attracts new members, who simply need to send a link with the bait product to the Telegram chatbot to get a complete phishing kit including courier service, payment, and refund URLs,” the spokesperson said.
Recommendations to combat these groups include:
Before entering your login details and payment information, double check the URL and Google it. If the site is only a couple of months old, it is very likely a scam or a phishing page.
When using services for renting or selling new and used goods, do not switch to a messenger service. Keep all your communication in the official chat.