23rd February 2021

Banking industry-funded police unit cracks down on COVID-19 scams, preventing £20m of fraud in 2020

UK Finance highlights:
-122 suspected fraudsters arrested, including several involved in COVID19 related scams
-Over 700 social media accounts linked to fraudulent activity taken down, of which over 250 were money mule recruiters
-18,175 compromised UK card numbers recovered and £2.59 million of assets seized

A specialist police unit funded by the banking and finance industry prevented almost £20m of fraud and arrested over 100 suspected criminals in 2020, including several involved in scams exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit(DCPCU) targets the organised criminal gangs responsible for fraud and is made up of officers from the City of London Police and Metropolitan Police Service and staff from UK Finance.

Over the past year, the unit has successfully targeted fraudsters seeking to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic4. 54 criminals were convicted following successful DCPCU investigations, with a total of 50 years in prison handed out to defendants in fraud cases investigated by the unit.

The convictions include a criminal involved in a large-scale campaign sending out fake text messages claiming to offer tax refunds from the UK government due to the pandemic. Other successful operations by the unit include the sentencing of a cheque fraud gang to a combined total of over 24 years in prison, and the jailing of a courier scam fraudster who spent £5,000 in a two-day period on cards stolen from three elderly victims
Close collaboration with social media and telecommunications partners enabled the DCPCU to take down 731 social media accounts linked to fraudulent activity, of which 258 were involved in recruiting money mules. Moreover, the DCPCU seized £2.59m of assets from criminal gangs, and recovered 18,175 compromised card numbers from active criminal gangs.
The unit remains on the frontline in protecting the public against fraud and is currently investigating over 150 live cases, including several COVID-related scams. Two separate cases coming to trial involve defendants accused of sending text message scams related to the COVID-19 vaccine that seek to harvest people’s personal or bank details.

Detective Chief Inspector Gary Robinson, the head of the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), comments
“Criminal gangs have callously targeted people’s finances and anxieties during a year which proved uniquely difficult for many.

I am proud that we have successfully targeted those behind these despicable crimes by quickly adapting our work to the operational challenges posed by the pandemic.

The DCPCU remains on the frontline in protecting the public against economic crime. By working closely with the banking industry and other partners we are continuing cracking down on those responsible for coronavirus-related fraud, with multiple arrests in recent weeks of individuals believed to be involved in coronavirus vaccine scams.”

Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, adds “The DCPCU’s impressive results in the face of COVID-19 are an important example of the banking industry’s close collaboration with law enforcement to stop the criminals seeking to steal customers’ money.

The banking and finance industry’s partnership with the DCPCU is an important part of our arsenal to protect the public from fraud. The successes with social media and telecommunication partners show what can be achieved when all sectors collaborate in a united front against this threat.

We would urge the public to follow the advice of our Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign to stay safe from scams and always take a moment to stop and think before parting with their money or information.”

Temporary Commander, Clinton Blackburn of the City of London Police, Policing Lead Force for Fraud said, City of London Police said “This year has been a year like no other, and unfortunately criminals have used this global pandemic to prey on people’s fears and anxieties in order to steal their money. Throughout this, DCPCU officers have worked relentlessly to protect the public from these heartless criminals.

I am so proud of the DCPCU officers’ achievements throughout this pandemic, which include 122 arrests and the take down of over 700 social media accounts linked to fraudulent activity. The unit’s work has prevented millions of pounds worth of money belonging to innocent individuals and businesses from getting into the hands of fraudsters.
“It is likely that criminals will continue to attempt to exploit the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and on people’s personal finances, and it’s therefore essential the public remain vigilant and Take Five before parting with any money or personal details.”

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