UK’s biggest ever 'bank spoof' fraud: 70,000 Brits to be told by text they are victims of £50m iSpoof con

24 November 2022, 08:11 | Updated: 24 November 2022, 10:07

70,000 people in the UK will get a text today saying they were a victim of a scam
70,000 people in the UK will get a text today saying they were a victim of a scam. Picture: Metropolitan Police
Fran Way

By Fran Way

Around 70,000 Brits will get a text from the police today telling them that they have fallen victim to the UK’s biggest ever 'bank spoofing' phone fraud.

It comes after the website iSpoof, used by 59,000 scammers across the world, was shut down by police but not before an estimated 200,000 people in the UK were scammed out of at least £50 million.

Scammers paid a subscription to iSpoof to use technology that would let them appear as though they were phoning victims from banks such as Barclays, Santander, NatWest and Nationwide.

Police officers make arrests in UK's biggest-ever fraud operation

iSpoof allowed users, who all paid with Bitcoin, to disguise their real phone number so it appeared they were calling from a trusted source. This is known as ‘spoofing’.

When victims would answer, crooks would then trick people into handing over money or sensitive information like one-time passcodes to online bank accounts.

READ MORE: World Cup and Black Friday ‘seen by scammers as opportunities to strike’

READ MORE: Bargain hunters warned of £15 million worth of fraud ahead of Black Friday

A total of 59,000 criminals paid subscriptions of between £150 and £5,000 to use the website, making £3.2million for the site's owners and scamming around 200,000 unsuspecting victims in the UK out of £48million.

However, police say because the fraud is vastly underreported, the true amount is believed to be much higher.

The Metropolitan Police said at one point, almost 20 people every minute of the day were being contacted by scammers behind false identities.

Police officers make arrests in UK's biggest-ever fraud operation

Police investigators infiltrated the site in June 2021 and found a treasure trove of information in 70 million rows of data. Bitcoins were also tracked down.

Because the pool of suspects was so large, the Met Police focused on users from the UK who spent at least £100 of Bitcoin on the site.

So far, more than 100 people have been arrested, most on suspicion of fraud.

The suspected mastermind behind the site, Teejai Fletcher, 34, from East London, was arrested earlier this month and charged with a range of offences and will appear at court in two weeks’ time.

Victims who were contacted unknowingly via iSpoof will get a text today and tomorrow from the Met Police directing them online for more information about what to do next.

Met police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said: “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.”

The Met’s Cyber and Economic Crime Units co-coordinated the crackdown on iSpoof working with Europol, Eurojust, the Dutch authorities and the FBI.

In the UK, more than 100 people have been arrested, the vast majority on suspicion of fraud.

The Met’s Cyber Crime Unit began investigating iSpoof in June 2021 under the name Operation Elaborate.

It was created in December 2020 and had 59,000 user accounts.

Investigators infiltrated the site and began gathering information alongside international partners.

The website server was also targeted by investigators, who found it contained a "treasure trove" of information in 70 million rows of data. Bitcoin records were also traced.

Europol Executive Director Ms Catherine De Bolle said: “The arrests today send a message to cybercriminals that they can no longer hide behind perceived international anonymity.

"Europol coordinated the law enforcement community, enriched the information picture and brought criminal intelligence into ongoing operations to target the criminals wherever they are located.

"Together with our international partners, we will continue to relentlessly push the envelope to bring criminals to justice.”

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

William appeared at Ascot

Prince William shares tender moment with Kate's mother as she suffers mishap at Ascot

Jay Slater's family have warned people about donating to fake pages

'I just want my baby back': Mother of missing Brit Jay Slater, 19, issues plea after 'false sighting' delays search

Keir Starmer came out on top after LBC’s two exclusive phone-ins

Keir Starmer comes out on top after LBC phone-ins – as Rishi Sunak seen as ‘overwhelmingly negative’

OceanGate co-founder Guillermo Söhnlein is pictured with CEO Stockton Rush, who died on the Titan sub

Oceangate co-founder claims he can 'safely' send 1,000 people to Venus

Labour must ditch 'phoney fiscal rules' and borrow to invest in public services, says boss of UK's largest trade union

Labour must ditch 'phoney fiscal rules' and borrow to invest in public services, says boss of UK's largest trade union

Theo Paphitis speaks to LBC.

'They've lost the plot': Ex-Tory donor and Dragons' Den star Theo Paphitis reveals why he's switched support to Labour

Exclusive
Sir David Ormand has criticised the Conservatives for suggesting Keir Starmer is a security risk

Former spy boss criticises 'disreputable' Tory suggestion that Putin and Xi would welcome Starmer as Prime Minister

Justin Timberlake was arrested on Tuesday

'We'll have a lot to say': Justin Timberlake's lawyer vows to 'vigorously defend' singer after DWI arrest

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday

Rishi Sunak set 'to become first PM to lose seat' in election wipeout with Conservatives down to just 53 MPs, poll finds

Starmer and Neville

Keir Starmer tells Gary Neville he needs to win British people's trust, as he warns turning UK around will take 10 years

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrives for a visit to Great Wood Farm Early Years Centre, Grantham in East Midlands, June 17

Sunak close protection officer arrested over alleged election date bets

Allen Morgan, 73, said he was locked in a "passionate but forbidden" affair with his now wife Margaret, 75, when he hired a hitman to kill his then-partner Carol

Pensioner found guilty of conspiring to murder wife after hiring hitman amid 'passionate but forbidden' affair

Charlie Cosser

Teenager jailed for life for murdering 17-year-old Charlie Cosser on dance floor at party

Police were called to a property at Shorncliffe Road shortly after 3pm on Sunday

Baby girl mauled to death in dog attack at family home in Coventry

The tourists trying to stop Stonehenge being vandalised

Moment hero tourists grab Just Stop Oil spraying paint on Stonehenge, as activists 'damage rare lichen'

Anthony Hill disappeared on Monday morning

CCTV images show last sighting of Martin Lewis' MoneyExpertSaving colleague before going missing on 37th birthday