November 18th 2014
The Metropolitan Police says it is investigating more than 200 organised crime groups engaged in cyber fraud in the capital. The force's new cyber crime and fraud unit – codenamed Falcon – is investigating alleged crimes ranging from online dating scams to million pound mortgage fraud.
Speaking to London's Evening Standard newspaper, the unit's head, Detective Chief Superintendent Jayne Snelgrove, said that their caseload of some 54,000 reports of cyber fraud each year is overwhelming, adding that the crime is still considerably under-reported. DCS Snelgrove said that officers are currently in the early stages of some 18 investigation which include online retail and auction site frauds, courier scams and investment fraud. Launched in October, the squad has already made more than 100 arrests.
DCS Snelgrove told the Evening Standard that more than 200 organised gangs from around the world are targeting London for online crime. Falcon's enquries cover the US, Europe and Russia, but many online crimes are committed by gangs or individuals in this country. She voiced concern that some of crimes reported via Action Fraud – last year numbering some 54,000 – had not been investigated properly in the past.
One of its main priorities is to improve investigations into business fraud in the capital. The Met is planning to set up 'volume crime hubs' so that both businesses and individuals can report cybercrime directly to them. The first two hubs will be located in Edmonton and Peckham, with plans for at least one further hub in west London.
An increasing number of online auction crimes occur where victims are first contacted on eBay or Gumtree, then defrauded by using non-secure payment sites. Courier fraud is also on the increase, where victims are called by fraudsters claiming to be the victim’s bank, or the police, saying there has been security breach. A 'courier' is despatched to collect the victim's payment cards.
DCS Snelgrove told the Evening Standard: “One of our key pieces of work is to establish how these crimes are committed and to strengthen areas which are vulnerable. Often people feel it is not going to happen to them and that cyber fraud only happens to people who are stupid or greedy, or both, but that is not the case."
She continued: “The fraudsters are very sophisticated and very manipulative and for some larger amounts of money they will spend weeks, or months, socially engineering someone, often giving assurances and giving evidence of who they are to corroborate their story.”