Police announced Wednesday that a gang which defrauded thousands of people with fake visas was captured in simultaneous operations in eight cities.
The cybercrimes squad of the police deployed in the capital Ankara was in pursuit of the gang upon complaints and tipoffs about fake visas by tourists and businesspeople seeking to travel abroad. An investigation found out that the gang copied websites and phone numbers of legal companies serving as intermediaries for acquiring visas to European countries. Those fake companies even bought ads worth TL 20,000 a day that put them ahead of legal companies in online searches for visas as well as sponsored ads on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter.
Police sources said the gang set up 29 shell companies which was little more than an address for registration of hotlines starting with 0850, a number designated for corporate call centers. Some 110 suspects were linked to the gang and they include call center employees serving in those shell companies. Some 86 suspects were captured in yesterday's operations.
Authorities said the gang was careful not to raise suspicion and regularly handed over ownership of shell companies to each other and they earned about TL 1.2 million monthly by defrauding a large number of people including artists, doctors and lawyers. Actress Akasya Asıltürkmen was among their victims. In an earlier social media post, Asıltürkmen has said that she paid TL 440 for a visa application and then found out she was defrauded when she visited a legal visa application company that the scammers copied in their scheme. "I was defrauded for the first time in my life and it was the day I watched ‘Organize İşler,'" Asıltürkmen has said in her post, referring to the famous blockbuster about a gang of scammers.