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Police send text alerts to 70,000 victims in UK

Detectives reach out to 70,000 potential victims of a banking scam, as authorities crack down on fraudsters impersonating banks. Over £48m may have been stolen.

A major banking scam has led detectives to reach out to 70,000 individuals who may have fallen victim to the scheme. The Metropolitan Police is taking the effort to send text messages to mobile phone users who were believed to have communicated with fraudsters pretending to be representatives of their banks. Over 100 people have already been arrested, and one man has been charged in connection with the scam.

Within the next day, individuals who receive a text message will be directed to visit the Action Fraud website to provide their information, helping officers develop cases against suspects. Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley acknowledged the immense task of gathering evidence after uncovering an online fraud network. The police are reaching out to mobile numbers that were connected to fraudsters for longer than a minute, indicating potential fraud or attempted fraud.

More about the scam

In this scam, fraudsters randomly called people, pretending to be their bank and warning them of suspicious activity on their accounts. They claimed to be bank personnel from various financial institutions like Barclays, Santander, and HSBC, among others, in an attempt to deceive victims. Once engaged in conversation, the fraudsters manipulated victims into divulging security details and potentially gained access to features such as one-time passcodes to steal funds from accounts.

Authorities suspect that up to 200,000 people in the UK may have fallen victim to this scam, suffering significant financial losses. The 70,000 individuals being contacted had connections to known fraudsters, and their testimonies could be instrumental in prosecuting cases.

Legitimate messages from the police will be delivered between Thursday and Friday, with victims being directed to the Metropolitan Police website. Any other text messages should be disregarded as fraudulent.

iSpoof Website taken down

The operation to bring these cyber fraudsters to justice began when investigators in the Netherlands tapped into a website used by criminals to conduct anonymous calls while impersonating bank employees. This iSpoof website, now shut down by the FBI, provided scammers with the ability to retrieve one-time passcodes and passwords. These one-time codes, typically sent via text messages, are commonly employed as security measures by online banks.

Detective Superintendent Helen Rance, of the Met’s Cyber Crime unit, stated that victims were unaware that they were receiving calls from iSpoof. The scammers on the other end of the line proved remarkably persuasive. The scale of this crime is immense, leaving many people deeply concerned and in a state of distress.

Investigations indicate that fraudsters paid between £150 and £5,000 per month in bitcoin to utilize the iSpoof service, contacting as many as 20 people per minute. Their primary targets were individuals in the USA, UK, Netherlands, Australia, France, and Ireland. Current estimates suggest that criminals using iSpoof may have stolen around £48 million, a figure likely to increase. Those operating the service are allegedly earning £3.2 million and leading extravagant lifestyles.

When visiting the iSpoof website, users were met with an FBI notice explaining that the site had been shut down. Despite this, the investigation is ongoing. Police suspect that around 59,000 individuals could have used the iSpoof service, with a focus on those in the UK who have spent at least 100 Bitcoin to access it, believing that their identities were safeguarded.

Arrests made

In one raid conducted earlier this month, authorities arrested a man suspected to be behind iSpoof at a location in east London. Furthermore, they have apprehended 120 individuals in other raids who were thought to have taken part in fraudulent activities associated with the service.

Detective Superintendent Rance cautioned that other criminal “enablers” were likely to emerge, ready to provide services to fraudsters. She acknowledged that these individuals would probably move to another website to continue their operations.

A 34-year-old man named Teejai Fletcher was charged with manufacturing or supplying articles for use in fraud and participating in the activities of an organized crime group. He is scheduled to appear at Southwark Crown Court on December 6th.