The Computer Crime Unit of the federal police is investigating a case of identity theft involving Catherine De Bolle, the executive director of the EU’s law enforcement agency Europol.
Despite De Bolle having taken the new job in 2018, the case appears to be centred on Belgium. Police have received hundreds of reports of an email purporting to come from her.
The mail, in French, announces itself as a COPJ – communication by an officer of the judicial police – and begins:
“At the request of Ms. Catherine De Bolle, Commissioner General of the Federal Police, elected to the post of Director of Europol — Brigade for the Protection of Minors (BPM), we are sending you this invitation. […] We are initiating legal proceedings against you for child pornography, paedophilia, exhibitionism, cyber pornography and sex trafficking.”
Recipients of the mail are ordered to reply within 72 hours.
“After this deadline, we will be obliged to send our report to the deputy prosecutor at the high court in Créteil [a suburb of Paris] and a cybercrime specialist to establish an arrest warrant against you.”
Quite why a case against a Belgian internet user, brought by the former chief of the Belgian police, should be referred to a court in Paris is not made clear. In any case, police have advised anyone who receives the mail not to reply.
The purpose of the mail, rather mundanely, appears to be to get hold of people’s banking details.
“Some e-mails notify recipients that their PayPal account has been blocked,” said a spokesperson for the Computer Crime Unit of the (real) federal police.
“They then ask you to click on a link allowing a so-called unblocking of the PayPal account. This link in fact leads to a bogus PayPal site.”
This is not the first time Director De Bolle’s name has been using for phishing. In March this year, another fraud email claimed her authority, as well as that of her successor as commissioner-general of the federal police, Marc De Mesmaeker.
The Computer Crime Unit lists a number of warning signs: spelling errors, the recipient of the email (here firstname.lastname@example.org), the response that must be sent to an unofficial address (email@example.com), the lack of date of the alleged offences, no mention of the name of the person targeted by the investigation or the fact that this kind of judicial summons is never sent by email.
Advice: Never contact the sender by any means; never communicate your banking details by email to anyone whatsoever. Forward the suspicious email to firstname.lastname@example.org and then delete it.