The UK’s biggest-ever fraud sting has brought down a phone number spoofing site used by criminals to scam thousands of victims out of millions of pounds.
Members of British law enforcement were part of a global operation to take down ispoof.cc – a website described by police as an online fraud shop.
They worked with Dutch law enforcement who managed to tap the website’s servers in the Netherlands to secretly listen to phone calls.
At one point as many as 20 people every minute were being targeted by callers using technology bought from the site, which is said to have made more than £3m profit.
Criminals used the site to buy technology that allowed them to mask their phone number, after finding out about it from adverts posted on Telegram channels.
This allowed them to trick victims into thinking they were being contacted by their bank and persuade them to pass on personal details that allowed the fraudsters to steal cash.
One victim lost £3m, with the average loss among the 4,785 people who reported being targeted to Action Fraud at £10,000. Police believe up to £48m has been stolen.
Around 200,000 victims across the world
There are thought to be many more potential victims – around 200,000 globally, with a high percentage of the calls made in the UK and US.
Of 10 million fraudulent calls made, 40% were in the US, 35% were in the UK and the rest were spread across other countries.
So far 120 arrests have been made including 103 in London and 17 outside the capital.
This includes alleged site administrator Teejay Fletcher, 35, who was arrested in east London earlier this month and is facing criminal charges.
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Police said Fletcher, who is alleged to be a member of an organised crime group, was living a “lavish” lifestyle.
On Thursday and Friday, around 70,000 UK phone numbers called by criminals who used the site will be alerted by the Metropolitan Police via text message and asked to contact the force.
However, if a text message comes after that time, it will not be from the force.
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Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said the number of potential UK victims was “extraordinary”.
Ispoof was created in December 2020 and at its peak had 59,000 users, allowing them to pay for the criminal software using Bitcoin, with charges ranging from £150 to £5,000 per month.
UK police began investigating the site in June 2021.