Authorities in the U.K. have sentenced seven people to prison for their part in running a wide-ranging phone fraud scam that cost victims more than £1.3 million over the course of several years.
The scheme that the gang ran is a common and highly successful one that involves making calls to potential victims and telling them that their bank accounts have been compromised. The fraudsters then convince the victims that they need to transfer their money out of the “compromised” accounts and into accounts at other banks, controlled by the criminals. The operation is a simple one, and only requires the fraudsters to have a convincing script and a lot of nerve.
In many cases, the fraudsters tell the victims to call their bank to confirm the information about the compromised account. But when a victim hangs up the phone, the fraudsters keep the phone line open and so the attempted call to the bank actually still goes to the criminals.
Police in the U.K. were able to identify members of this gang, based in Scotland, back in 2014, and began targeting them for arrest. The first operation resulted in the seizure of dozens of mobile phones used in the scam, and more than £105,000 in cash.
“This was a callous crime which targeted the vulnerable and elderly. There was no concern shown whatsoever to the victims, regardless of their age or vulnerability,” Tony Hubbard of the Zephyr regional organized crime unit, told The Herald, of Plymouth, U.K.
“We can’t emphasise too strongly that people will not be asked to disclose account details over the phone and if they are suspicious of the phone call should hang up immediately, wait for five minutes before contacting the bank or ideally use a different phone.”
The seven people sentenced in this case include Atif Mohammed, Saif Mohammed, Asif Ali, Shabeer Ahmed, Shakeal Ahmed, Shameem Ali, and Zoe Latif. The sentences were for up to six years.
This type of phone fraud scam is becoming increasingly common, both in the U.K. and the United States. There have been a number of variations on it, some that involve the fraudsters actually showing up at victims’ homes to collect supposedly compromised bank cards, which then are used for fraud. Victims in these cases often are elderly and some of them lose tens of thousands of dollars in the schemes.