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Police are sending messages to 70,000 people who may have fallen victim to phone scammers

Image: Getty/Enes Evren

Police are sending text messages to more than 70,000 people to warn them that they have been victims of online banking scams and tell them how to take action.

The messages are being sent by the Metropolitan Police as part of the UK’s biggest-ever fraud crackdown, following an international operation to shut down a cybercrime agency. The operation was led by the Met and involved law enforcement agencies in Europe, Australia, the US, Ukraine and Canada, resulting in the arrest of 142 suspected cybercriminals.

Those arrested are suspected of being involved in perpetrating scams posing as representatives of banks – including Barclays, Santander, HSBC, Lloyds, Halifax, First Direct, Natwest, Nationwide and TSB – and tricking victims into selling money or one-time provide access codes to access bank accounts.

The scammers used a website called iSpoof, which allowed them to disguise their phone number to appear as if they were calling from a trusted source – something known as a spoofing attack.

Criminals try to trick people into handing over money or providing sensitive information such as one-time access codes to bank accounts. In the 12 months to August 2022, approximately 10 million fraudulent calls were made worldwide via iSpoof, of which approximately 3.5 million were in the UK. Of these, 350,000 calls lasted longer than a minute and were addressed to 200,000 people. The 70,000 people contacted are connected to calls from individuals known to police, according to the BBC.

Also: How to better secure your banking information and finances online

According to Action Fraudthe attacks resulted in each victim losing an average of £10,000 and according to Europolglobal losses exceed £100 million (EUR 115 million).

Most of the arrests related to the spoofing scam have been made in the UK, with over 100 suspects turned fraud.

The arrests follow an operation led by the Met’s Cyber ​​Crime Unit, which began in June 2021, in which investigators infiltrated the site and gathered information about the cybercriminal users. The website is now closed and confiscated.

“By taking iSpoof off the air, we have prevented further offenses and stopped fraudsters targeting future victims,” ​​said Helen Rance, the Metropolitan Police’s head of cybercrime.

“Our message to criminals who have used this website is that we have your data and are working hard to locate you no matter where you are,” she added.

Also: My stolen credit card information was used 4,500 miles away. I tried to figure out what happened

The police are sending text messages to tens of thousands of victims they have identified telling them that they have fallen victim to the scammers and to report it to Action Fraud. It is also recommended that anyone who believes they have been a victim of fraud contact their bank and contact the police.

Europol helped coordinate the operation and information about the attackers has been shared with investigators around the world.

“Today’s arrests are a signal to cybercriminals that they can no longer hide behind supposed international anonymity,” said Europol director Catherine De Bolle.

“Together with our international partners, we will continue to relentlessly push the boundaries to bring criminals to justice,” she added.

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