More than 100 people have been arrested in the UK’s biggest ever fraud sting, it has been revealed yesterday. Operation Elaborate brought down a website police describe as a “one-stop spoofing shop” used by scammers to steal tens of millions of pounds from Britons via fake bank phone calls.
It is alleged that fraudsters paid iSpoof, a website set up in December 2020, for a service that allowed them to disguise their phone number and pretend to be calling victims from a credible organisation, such as a bank or the tax office.
Those allegedly involved in the scam would then trick people into handing over money or giving them access to their bank accounts. In twelve months around 10m fraudulent calls were made globally via iSpoof, with about 3.5m of those made in the UK. Of those, 350,000 calls lasted more than one minute and were made to 200,000 individuals across the country.
One victim was reportedly scammed out of £3m, while the average amount stolen was £10,000. Police believe up to £48m has been stolen.
Users of iSpoof believed they were acting anonymously. However, investigators infiltrated the website, allowing them to access user data and begin to track down suspects. So far 120 arrests have been made including 103 in London and 17 outside the capital.
The Met police commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, said: “By taking away the tools and systems that have enabled fraudsters to cheat innocent people at scale, this operation shows how we are determined to target corrupt individuals intent on exploiting often vulnerable people.”
Detective Superintendent Helen Rance, who leads on cybercrime for the Met, said: “Our message to criminals who have used this website is we have your details and are working hard to locate you, regardless of where you are.”
The police force said it plans to use the Proceeds of Crime Act to recoup the money stolen from victims. The Act enables Courts to make Confiscation Orders against defendants convicted of crimes such as fraud, forcing them to pay back large sums of money, or face lengthy prison sentences.
It is imperative that anyone associated with this investigation is represented by solicitors with expertise in financial crime.
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