More than 100 people have been arrested in what the Met Police describe as the UK’s biggest ever anti-fraud operation.
The force led the bid to take down the ‘one stop spoofing shop’, iSpoof, which had more than 200,000 possible victims in this country alone.
Fraudsters contacted people posing as as representatives of banks including Barclays, Santander, HSBC, Lloyds, Halifax, First Direct, Natwest, Nationwide and TSB, before conning them into giving over details.
According to the Met, iSpoof allowed users, who paid for the service in Bitcoin, to disguise phone number so it appeared they were calling from a trusted source.
In the 12 months until August 2022 around 10 million fraudulent calls were made globally via iSpoof, with around 3.5 million of those made in the UK.
“..the exploitation of technology by organised criminals is one of the greatest challenges for law enforcement in the 21st century.Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley
Of those, 350,000 calls lasted more than one minute and were made to 200,000 individuals.
The Met said 20 people every minute of the day were being contacted, hiding behind fake identities on the website.
The operation, which was led by Scotland Yard’s Cyber Crime Unit including with international law enforcement, Europol, Eurojust, the Dutch authorities and the FBI, as well as other authorities in the US and Ukraine, to dismantle the website this week.
Victims are believed to have lost tens of millions of pounds, with 100 people having been arrested, the vast majority on suspicion of fraud, in the UK alone.
Detective Superintendent Helen Rance, who leads on cyber crime for the Met, said: “By taking down iSpoof we have prevented further offences and stopped fraudsters targeting future victims.
“Our message to criminals who have used this website is we have your details and are working hard to locate you, regardless of where you are.”
Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley added that: “the exploitation of technology by organised criminals is one of the greatest challenges for law enforcement in the 21st century.
“Together with the support of partners across UK policing and internationally, we are reinventing the way fraud is investigated. The Met is targeting the criminals at the centre of these illicit webs that cause misery for thousands.
“By taking away the tools and systems that have enabled fraudsters to cheat innocent people at scale, this operation shows how we are determined to target corrupt individuals intent on exploiting often vulnerable victims.”
Eurojust President Ladislav Hamran added that “as cybercrime knows no borders, effective judicial cooperation across jurisdictions is key in bringing its perpetrators to court.
Meanwhile, Europol executive director Catherine De Bolle said the operation showed “cybercriminals that they can no longer hide behind perceived international anonymity.”
Commander Nik Adams, from the City of London Police which is the national lead force for fraud, added that “collaborative and proactive operations like this to tackle fraud are vitally important in clamping down on criminals and preventing innocent members of the public from being targeted for their hard-earned money.”