LONDON (AP) — More than 70,000 potential victims of banking scams in the UK will receive text messages from police on Thursday in what officials are calling their biggest fraud fight.
London’s Metropolitan Police Service said British authorities have already arrested more than 100 people following a website they described as an “international one-stop spoofing shop”. Spoofing refers to fraudsters who hide their phone numbers to trick potential victims into believing the call is from a trusted source, such as their own bank.
Police are now contacting fraud victims who have lost “tens of millions of pounds” to encourage them to report the crimes and help authorities prosecute thousands of suspected scammers who have used the iSpoof website. Police said one victim alone was defrauded of 3.2 million pounds ($3.9 million).
London Police Commissioner Mark Rowley said the campaign comes at a time when officers have largely changed their approach to fighting electronic fraud, shutting down websites such as iSpoof rather than individual scammers. go after. Police in the UK are working with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and authorities in Europe on the iSpoof investigation.
“The Met focuses on the criminals at the center of illegal nets that cause misery for thousands of people,” Rowley said. “By removing the tools and systems that allow fraudsters to commit fraud at scale, this operation demonstrates our determination to crack down on corrupt individuals who often exploit vulnerable victims.”
Police said the fraudsters used iSpoof to hide their phone numbers and then posed as representatives of legitimate UK banks, including Barclays, Santander, HSBC, Lloyds, Halifax, First Direct, Nationwide and TSB.
In their effort to identify and prosecute the fraudsters, the police allowed iSpoof to continue operating so that they could infiltrate the site and collect information about the users.
Police said the website was created in December 2020 and had 59,000 user accounts. Of the 10 million iSpoof spoofed calls, 40% were in the US and 35% in the UK
Due to the sheer number of potential suspects, police are targeting UK users first who have paid at least £100 in bitcoin to use iSpoof.
The suspected organizer of the website was arrested in East London earlier this month. According to the police, he is suspected of several crimes and is in custody.
UK authorities have forwarded information about other suspects to law enforcement in the Netherlands, Australia, France and Ireland.