British police arrest phone scammers

UK police said on Thursday that their biggest anti-fraud operation in history has disrupted an international criminal network targeting hundreds of thousands of victims in millions of spam phone calls.

The Metropolitan Police led an 18-month global investigation into the website, working with Europol, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies around the world.

A total of 142 fraudsters were arrested, including one of his alleged London administrators. The suspects were detained in Australia, France, Ireland and the Netherlands, while the servers were closed in the Netherlands and Ukraine.

British police believe organized crime groups are linked to the site and its tens of thousands of users. The site allows users to access software tools to illegally obtain funds from victims’ bank accounts and commit other types of fraud.

Met Commissioner Mark Rowley said the investigation showed a “different approach” to tech scammers.

“It’s about starting with the organized criminals who actually run and create the fraud that we see in the world around us.” he told reporters.

– Industrial Fraud –

London’s security service – the UK’s largest – said that from a year to August, suspects paid to access the website and made more than 10 million fraudulent calls worldwide.

About 40 percent were in the United States. More than a third of them were in the UK, and 200,000 potential victims were affected there alone.

To date, fraud detection agencies have recorded losses of £48 million ($58 million) in the UK alone. Victims lost an average of £10,000. The largest single theft was worth three million pounds.

Damage to victims worldwide is estimated at more than £100 million.

“Because the fraud is significantly underreported, the total amount is believed to be much higher,” the Met said.

Those behind the site have made nearly £3.2 million from it, the source said.

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Only about 5,000 British victims have been identified so far.

However, the Met’s investigation revealed phone numbers for over 70,000 potential victims who have yet to be contacted.

The force will attempt to contact them over the next two days by sending text messages directing those contacted to their website where details can be logged securely.

“What we’re doing here is trying to industrialize our response to the industrialization of organized crime,” Rowley added.

– “Operation Processing” –

The iSpoof website, described as the “international one-stop-shop for spoofing”, was launched in December 2020 and at its peak had 59,000 users paying between £150 and £5,000 for its services, according to the Met.

This allowed subscribers who could pay in bitcoin to access so-called spoofing tools that made their phone numbers look like they were calling from banks, tax offices and other official institutions.

The most frequently imitated institutions include some of the UK’s largest consumer banks, including Barclays, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds and Santander.

Combined with customer banking details and login details illegally obtained online, the criminals were then able to scam their victims.

“They harassed them with fraudulent activity on their bank accounts and deceived them,” explained Detective Superintendent Helen Rance, who leads the Met’s cybercrime investigation.

She noted that people contacted were usually instructed to share six-digit bank access codes to empty their accounts.

The Met launched Operation Explore in June 2021 in partnership with the Dutch police, who had already launched their own investigation after the iSpoof server was hosted there.

The subsequent server operating in Kyiv was closed in September, and on November 8 the site was permanently disabled.

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On the eve of the Met accused 34-year-old Teejay Fletcher from East London of fraud and organized crime crimes.

He remains in custody and will next appear before a London court on 6 December.

“It’s fair to say he lived a luxurious lifestyle,” Rance said, noting that the investigation is ongoing.

“Instead of just shutting down the site and arresting the administrator, we went after iSpoof users,” she added.

The Met noted that two other suspected administrators outside the UK remain at large.