Eight people have been convicted for major fraud following an investigation by the Metropolitan Police Service's Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU).
A phishing attack – by email purporting to be from the female victim's bank – netted the group comprising people of various nationalities, her £1 million live savings. They subsequently spent on themselves, buying anything from top of the range computers and gold, to cheeseburgers. Much of the money was spent when the five embarked on a spending spree during the post-Christmas sales in January last year.
The email directed the victim to a web page which was a very authentic copy of her bank's genuine website. Thinking it to be genuine, she entered her login details, which revealed them to the fraudsters and granted them access to her account. Her stolen details were then sold for £3,200 to another party, who used a third fraudster to call the bank posing as the victim and have contact details associated with the account changed, so that the would be unaware of the illicit transactions. Her savings were stolen via online transfers to numerous accounts, including several controlled by other individuals.
Detectives from the PCeU worked closely with the banking industry to identify a number of those involved, who were arrested in 2012 following a series of co-ordinated raids, assisted by colleagues from various police forces across the country, the Metropolitan Police's Fraud Squad and City of London Police's Specialist Crime Department.
A raid on a London address resulted in seizure of computers containing the details of over 11,000 credit cards – of which over 8,000 were those of UK customers – worth an estimated £2.5m loss to the banking industry.
The gang members were variously found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to launder the proceeds of crime, entering into/being concerned in the acquisition/retention/use or control of criminal property. Some were sentenced to 12 months imprisonment ordered to repay sums of money, whilst others are yet to be dealt with.
The PCeU's Detective Superintendent Charlie McMurdie said: "This is an excellent example of what can be achieved when police work together with industry to tackle the top tier of cyber crime. In this case the internet was used to allow disparate criminals to collude regardless of global location, time zone or legal framework. The victim of the crime was in South Africa while the suspects were in Egypt and the UK."
She added "While the internet can be a fantastic resource, it can also be used to commit old crimes in new ways. It is important that internet users are alert to the risks posed by the ingenuity of online criminals who seek to steal our money. Today's sentences are testament to how seriously we take this type of crime and should stand as a deterrent to anyone who might consider phishing or benefitting from phishing."