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Scammers Impersonating European Anti-Fraud Office to Launch Phishing Campaigns

Fraudsters are impersonating the European Commission or OLAF’s logo and the identity of OLAF staff members to target individuals.

 

Threat analysts have unearthed multiple incidents of fraud and phishing attempts via malicious texts, letters, and scam phone calls purporting to be from OLAF, the European Anti-Fraud Office. 

The European Anti-Fraud Office (also known as OLAF,) is a body mandated by the European Union (EU) with guarding the Union's financial interests. It was established on 28 April 1999, under the European Commission Decision 1999/352. 

To target entities and individuals, scammers often impersonate the European Commission or OLAF’s logo and the identity of OLAF staff members to look convincing. They try to lure victims by offering to transfer the money on the condition that if the victim pays a charge and provides financial and private data.

European Anti-Fraud Office methodology 

OLAF’s investigators achieve their goal by launching independent internal and external investigations. Threat analysts coordinate the activities of their anti-fraud partners in the Member States to counter fraud activities. 

OLAF supplies EU member states with the necessary support and passes technical knowledge to assist them in anti-fraud activities. It also contributes to the design of the anti-fraud strategy of the European Union and takes adequate measures to strengthen the relevant legislation. 

Targeting prominent names and businesses 

Earlier this year in April, European Union's anti-fraud agency accused France's far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen and members of her party of misusing thousands of euros' worth of EU funds while serving in the European Parliament. 

According to the Investigative website Mediapart, the OLAF report claimed Le Pen had misappropriated 140,000 euros of public money with party members, diverting 617,000 euros. However, none were accused of profiting directly, but of claiming EU funds for staff and event expenses. 

In 2017, OLAF put an end to an intricate fraud scheme via which more than EUR 1.4 million worth of European Union funds, meant for emergency response hovercraft prototypes, had been misused. 

The investigators unearthed the fraud pattern as part of their investigation into alleged irregularities in a Research and Innovation project granted to a European consortium. The Italian-led consortium, with partners in France, Romania, and the United Kingdom, was handed the responsibility of managing two hovercraft prototypes to be utilized as emergency nautical mediums able to reach remote areas in case of environmental accidents. 

During on-the-spot checks performed in Italy by OLAF and the Italian Guardia di Finanza, OLAF identified multiple disassembled components of one hovercraft, as well as another hovercraft that was completed after the deadline of the project. It became crystal clear that, in order to obtain the EU funds, the Italian partners had falsely attested to the existence of the required structural and economic conditions to carry out the project. 

Preventive tips 

The European Anti-Fraud Office recommends users follow the tips mentioned below: 

If an individual receives any such request regarding transferring money and claims to be from OLAF or one of its staff members, then it is a scam because OLAF NEVER offers or requests money transfers to or from citizens. OLAF only investigates fraud impacting the EU budget, and suspicions of misconduct by EU staff. Additionally, do not reply or carry out any of the actions contained in the correspondence.

The impacted individual should immediately report any fraud and/or phishing attempt to national authorities competent for crimes and/or cybercrime. OLAF does not investigate scams related to cryptocurrencies or personal finances.
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