AN INTERNATIONAL one-stop spoofing shop has been taken down in what is the UK’s biggest-ever counter fraud operation led by the Metropolitan Police Service. More than 200,000 potential victims in this country alone have been directly targeted through the fraud website iSpoof. At one stage, almost 20 people every minute of the day were being contacted by scammers using the site and hiding behind false identities.

The scammers posed as representatives of banks including Barclays, Santander, HSBC, Lloyds, Halifax, First Direct, NatWest, Nationwide and TSB. Scotland Yard’s Cyber Crime Unit worked with international law enforcement, including authorities in the US and Ukraine, to dismantle the website. This was a crucial phase in a worldwide operation, which has now been running out of the public eye since June last year in targeting a suspected organised crime group.

iSpoof enabled criminals to appear as if they were calling from banks, tax offices and other official bodies as they attempted to defraud victims. Those victims are believed to have lost tens of millions of pounds, while those behind the site earned almost £3.2 million in one 20-month period.

Detective Superintendent Helen Rance, who leads on cyber crime for the Metropolitan Police Service, explained: “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 that we have your details and are working hard to locate you, regardless of where you are.”

Metropolitan Police Service Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley commented: “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 in which fraud is investigated. The Metropolitan Police Service is targeting the criminals at the centre of these illicit webs that cause misery for thousands.”

Rowley added: “By taking away the tools and systems that have enabled fraudsters to cheat innocent people at scale, this operation shows precisely how we are determined to target corrupt individuals intent on exploiting often vulnerable victims.”