Police swoop on car sales fraudster

April 3rd 2014

Coinciding with Get Safe Online's campaign on vehicle fraud, police made arrests in dawn raids today acting on reports of people being conned out of thousands of pounds as they search for a new car on the internet.

For information and advice on buying and selling vehicles online safely, click here

The newly-formed London Regional Fraud Team comprising officers from City of London, Metropolitan and British Transport Police, executed warrants at four addresses in East London linked to what is believed to be a Romanian organised crime gang running a lucrative online vehicle fraud.

A man in his 30s is suspected of being at the heart of an operation that has been posting fictitious adverts offering cars for sale cars, often at below the market rate, on websites such as Autotrader and Gumtree. He was arrested at a house in Charlton on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud. £30,000 in cash seized from another property in the area. Car buyers who expressed an interest received emails supposedly from eBay, offering to hold payment for the vehicle in an escrow account until it had been viewed and a price agreed. This would allow the buyer to release the funds securely rather than having to carry around thousands of pounds in cash. The advertisement was actually fake and the money the victims had transferred had been quickly withdrawn from the false bank accounts it had actually ben paid into.

The London Regional Fraud Team is based at the City of London Police and is a part of the London Regional Organised Crime Unit, established by the Home Office. It has been set up specifically to tackle organised crime gangs committing fraud that affects and harms the region in and around the Capital.

Head of the new unit, DCI Andy Fyfe, said: “The fact that the unit consists of detectives from the three police forces serving the London region is evidence of the wider commitment from law enforcement to really clamp down on economic crime. And with organised crime gangs increasingly targeting people who are prepared to make large purchases online I would expect internet-related investigations and arrests to be a major focus for us over the coming months, with many more early morning visits to the homes of key suspects.”

The operation, which also saw the UK Border Agency arrest a 63 year-old woman on suspicion of being in possession of false immigration documents, comes a week after Get Safe Online and the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau launched a national campaign to raise awareness of the danger of online vehicle fraud.

Last year 6,600 people reported falling victim to the crime across the UK, with the true figure likely to be higher.

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