More than 100 people have been arrested in the UK’s biggest ever fraud operation, which 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 estimated that more than 200,000 potential victims were targeted via the iSpoof fraud website, which was taken down this week by Scotland Yard’s cybercrime unit with the help of the authorities in the US and Ukraine.
At one stage almost 20 people every minute of the day were being contacted by scammers hiding behind false identities created using the site and it is estimated that criminals may have stolen close to £50m. The actual amount is likely to be higher as fraud is often underreported.
One victim was scammed out of £3m, while the average amount stolen was £10,000. Those running the scam shop made about £3.2m over a 20-month period, it is estimated.
Fraudsters paid iSpoof, which was set up in December 2020, for a service that allowed them to disguise their phone number and pretend to be calling from a credible organisation, such as a bank or the tax office. The scammers used bitcoin to pay for the service.
They would then trick people into handing over money or giving them access to their bank accounts. In the year to August 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…