A criminal gang, thought to be responsible for stealing millions of pounds from online bank accounts, has been caught by the Met’s cyber crime unit
The arrests took place across London and Ireland, and concerned the theft of credit cards, as well as personal information and banking details. Five men and one woman, aged between 25 to 40 years old, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit online banking fraud and Computer Misuse Act offences.
According to the Police, they will remain in custody at a central London police station while enquiries are ongoing.
The Police says that the arrests were part of Operation Dynamophone – an investigation by the PCeU into a network of suspects believed to have systematically obtained large quantities of personal information, such as online bank account passwords and credit card numbers.
“The network is suspected of using online phishing in order to steal money from those accounts and use credit card details fraudulently. The offences have been committed almost entirely online,” said the Police.
It is thought that more than 10,000 online bank accounts and 10,000 credit cards have been compromised. Furthermore, the unit has identified that bank account take-over fraud amounted to approximately £1.14 million, with £358,000 stolen successfully. Worryingly, the total amount stolen using compromised credit cards has yet to be established but, by using the industry agreed standard formula, it is estimated to be worth more than £3 million.
“We have taken this action to shut down an organised criminal network running an online phishing and account take-over operation,” said Detective Inspector Colin Wetherill, from the PceU. “A great deal of personal information was compromised and cleverly exploited for substantial profit. By disrupting the operation we have hopefully prevented further loss to individuals and institutions across the UK.”
It seems that the gang used large quantities of unsolicited spam emails to direct unsuspecting victims to spoof websites, purporting to be legitimate online banking sites. Once victims reached the site, they were lured into providing their banking passwords and other personal information.
This data was then used by the suspected fraudsters to syphon off money from the victims’ online bank accounts. Credit card details were also obtained and exploited in the same way.
Detective Inspector Wetherill urged members of the public to exercise great care when supplying their personal details online and to take the advice given at www.getsafeonline.org.
The arrests are something of a coup for the Met’s cyber crime unit, which is facing an uncertain future after extra funding for the unit was axed as part of the coalition government’s £6 billion deficit reduction plans. It is also unclear whether the unit will end up as part of the proposed National Crime Agency.