Police bust global cyber gang accused of industrial-scale fraud (2024)

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Police bust global cyber gang accused of industrial-scale fraud (1)

By Tom Symonds

Home Affairs correspondent

Police have taken down a gang accused of using a technology service that helped criminals use fraudulent text messages to steal from victims.

They have arrested 37 people worldwide and are contacting victims.

Officers say younger people who grew up with the internet were the most likely to fall for the "phishing" scam.

The technology allowed scammers without technical skills to bombard victims with messages designed to trick them into making payments online.

Police targeted the gang's site, LabHost, which helped criminals send the messages and direct victims to fake websites appearing to be legitimate online payment or shopping services.

It had enabled the criminals to steal identity information, including 480,000 card numbers and 64,000 Pin codes, known in criminal slang as "fullz data", the police said.

Detectives do not know how much money was stolen but estimate the LabHost site made nearly £1m ($1.25m) in profits.

  • Banks warn of big increase in online scams

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Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Dame Lynne Owens said: "You are more likely to be a victim of fraud than any other crime.

"Our approach is to be more precise and targeted, with a clear focus on those enabling online fraud to be carried out on an international scale."

National Economic Crime Centre director Adrian Searle said: "Technology is enabling crime to be delivered at scale in an almost industrial fashion."

And LabHost had given criminals without technical skills the opportunity to "buy them off the shelf online and use them against victims in the UK and elsewhere".

The arrests were the result of a two-year operation involving the Metropolitan Police, National Crime Agency, City of London Police and law-enforcement bodies in 17 countries.

In the UK, 24 suspects were taken into custody, with arrests at Luton and Manchester airports.

Worldwide, 70 properties were searched and one British man charged.

Text messages

In the UK, 70,000 victims are believed to have been tricked into giving their details online.

About 25,000, who have been identified, will be sent text messages warning them which fake online payment services and shopping sites could have taken their money.

They will be advised to go to a Metropolitan Police website for advice.

Their cases have been reported to fraud investigators.

And officers say their personal details found in a dump of data, obtained from LabHost, have been "secured".

Personalised videos

Investigators also seized the email addresses of 800 criminals paying up to £300 a month to use the LabHost service.

And they will be sent personalised videos making clear police know who they are and what they have been doing.

The strategy, which follows advice from behavioural psychologists, is designed to undermine criminal confidence in the security of scam services.

Image source, Metropolitan Police

The gang's activities were discovered in 2022 by the Cyber Defence Alliance, a small team of investigators funded by UK financial bodies to infiltrate criminal networks on the dark web.

An alliance official said: "Unless we build a network to defeat a criminal network, we are going to be overwhelmed."

This investigation is an example of a new approach involving police, the National Crime Agency and banking security experts to target criminals offering services to other criminals.

In November 2022, police took down iSpoof, another "crime as a service" operation, which allowed criminals to cold-call victims to take their money.

Tejay Fletcher, 35, who founded the service, responsible for fraud totalling £100m, was jailed for 13 years in 2023.

And in February 2024, the National Crime Agency took down LockBit, "the world's most harmful cyber-crime group", which had used ransomware attacks costing victims billions of pounds.

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Related Topics

  • Cyber-crime
  • City of London Police
  • Metropolitan Police Service
  • Internet fraud
  • National Crime Agency
  • Fraud
  • Dark web
Police bust global cyber gang accused of industrial-scale fraud (2024)


How much do cybersecurity crimes cost in the UK? ›

In 2022 Cyber Crime cost UK Businesses on average £4,200, the total cost of cybercrime to the UK economy is estimated to be £27 billion per year, with businesses accounting for a significant proportion of this cost. Based on recent reports, it is expected that the average cost to remedy an attack is £21,000.

Is cyber crime a global threat? ›

The World Economic Forum's 2023 Global Risks Report ranks cybercrime as one of the top 10 risks facing the world today and for the next 10 years. If cybercrime were viewed as a nation state, cybercrime would count as the third largest economy in the world.

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Which country has the best cyber security? ›

The top countries with the best cyber security programs are USA, UK, Australia, Canada, Switzerland and Denmark.

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For the 13th year in a row, the United States led all counties and regions globally with an average cost per data breach of $9.48 million in 2023, representing a 0.4% increase from 2022 when the average cost of a breach was $9.44 million.

How much do cyber crime jobs pay UK? ›

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The estimated total pay for a Cyber Security is £51,017 per year, with an average salary of £44,490 per year. This number represents the median, which is the midpoint of the ranges from our proprietary Total Pay Estimate model and based on salaries collected from our users.

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