Scams  

Fraud-linked social media accounts drop 78%

Fraud-linked social media accounts drop 78%

A police unit funded by the banking and finance industry has observed a 78 per cent drop in social media accounts linked to fraudulent activity in the first six months of 2021.

The Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), which is funded by the banking and finance industry and is made up of officers from the City of London Police and Metropolitan Police Service, took down 125 accounts between January and June this year, compared to 575 in the first half of 2020.

Trade body UK Finance, which also has colleagues sit in the unit, said the accounts were linked to people posting fake adverts for products as well as to recruit money mules.

The trade body said criminals often recruit money mules by posing as an employee advertising a job such as “payment processing agent”, “money transfer agent” or “local processor”.

It said: "We don’t think there is one particular reason for the decrease [in accounts this year] but the unit’s focus switched into identifying those responsible for exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic."

The Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit said it worked in “close collaboration” with social media and telecommunications partners to take down the scam accounts.

The unit also arrested 67 suspected criminals between January and June. Some 49 of these have since been convicted. It also “disrupted” 24 organised criminal gangs.

Among those it sentenced this year was one criminal who sent “thousands” of scam Covid-19 vaccination texts harvesting people’s personal and financial details by claiming to be from the NHS. They received a four year and three month sentence.

Another criminal was jailed for stealing £172,000 from cash machines, whilst an organised crime group was identified for committing £1.2m of fraud.

“Criminals continued in their attempts to capitalise on the pandemic by targeting people’s finances and anxieties, impersonating trusted organisations such as the NHS and government departments,” said detective chief inspector Gary Robinson, who heads up the unit.

“These figures are testament to the hard work of the DCPCU officers who are on the frontline in the fight against fraudsters,” he continued.

“By working closely with the banking industry and other partners including the Crown Prosecution Service we are continuing cracking down on those responsible for fraud.”

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said: “The unit’s collaborative work with banks, social media companies, the telecoms sector and government has been instrumental in bringing criminals to justice and preventing fraud.”

The unit is currently investigating more than 140 live cases, including 43 organised crime groups.

ruby.hinchliffe@ft.com