large-scale fraud site taken down from international operations

British police have arrested around a hundred people linked to the iSpoof site, through which they extract money and access to bank accounts by pretending to be representatives of large companies.

A website used by crooks to extract money and access bank accounts was taken down this week in an international operation, the biggest in the fight against fraud for UK police, Scotland Yard announced on Thursday. More than 100 people have been arrested in Britain alone, mostly for fraud, according to Scotland Yard. Among them is the alleged organizer of the iSpoof site, Teejai Fletcher, 34, who has been charged and remanded in custody.

Other suspects identified in the country have been reported to investigative services in the Netherlands, Australia, France and Ireland. The number of potential victims targeted is over 200,000 and the damage runs into tens of millions of pounds in the UK alone, according to London police.

Three quarters of calls to the US or UK

The iSpoof site allowed criminals to pose as representatives of major banks by displaying credible phone numbers (banks, tax offices or official bodies) in order to extract money or passwords over the phone or via SMS to access accounts. The scammers using the site paid for it in Bitcoin, between £150 and £5,000 depending on the service. In the year to August last year, 10 million calls were made worldwide, around 40% to the US, a third to the UK.

Helen Rance, head of cybercrime at London Police, pointed out that by “dismantling iSpoof we have prevented further crime and prevented fraudsters from targeting future victims”. “We have your contact information and are working hard to find you wherever you are,” she told the site’s users.

More than 50 million euros in damage in total

“The exploitation of technology by organized criminals is one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century (…),” said the new chief of London’s police, Mark Rowley. “With the support of our partners in the UK and internationally, we are reinventing the way fraud is investigated,” he added in a statement, welcoming the neutralization of the site, which has “allowed crooks to defraud innocent people on a massive scale”.

This extensive operation was carried out in coordination with Europol, Eurojust and the FBI. Computer servers were shut down in the Netherlands and Ukraine. The average damage reported is estimated at 10,000 pounds sterling (11,600 euros), for a total of 48 million pounds (55 million euros) in the UK.

These arrests “send the message to cybercriminals that they can no longer hide behind the international anonymity they perceive,” said Catherine de Bolle, director general of Europol.

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