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

  • Warning UK losing £2,300 per minute to fraud

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.

Have you been the victim of a phishing scam that originated from a text message? Share your experiences by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk, external.

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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)


Police bust global cyber gang accused of industrial-scale fraud? ›

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.

What is the most investigated cybercrime? ›

The Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Network took in over 5.39 million reports in 2023, of which 48 percent were for fraud and 19 percent for identity theft.

What was LabHost? ›

LabHost was set up in 2021, offering a “phishing service” platform. This allowed criminal users to set up and run websites with the sole purpose of being used to steal information from users, such as card details, personal information, passwords and security questions and answers, also known as phishing.

What is the most common type of internet fraud? ›

Email phishing scams

Email-based phishing scams are among the most prevalent types of internet fraud, which continues to pose a serious threat to internet users and businesses.

What is global cyber crime? ›

It refers to illegal internet-mediated activities that often take place in global electronic networks. Cybercrime is "international" or "transnational" – there are 'no cyber-borders between countries'.

What is the number 1 cybercrime in USA? ›

Bulk phishing, smishing, and business e-mail compromise (BEC) are the most common types. In 2022, 85 percent of the surveyed worldwide organizations reported encountering bulk phishing attacks, while roughly three in four were targeted by smishing scams.

Who are the top 5 cyber criminals? ›

The top 5 cyber criminals include Kevin Mitnick, Adrian Lamo, Albert Gonzalez, and Jeanson James Ancheta, who have all seen jail time for their activities. Their criminal activities have resulted in significant legal consequences.

What country has the most internet fraud? ›

With an astounding 466,501 online scams in 2022, the U.S. lead the world as the country with the most scam victims per year.

What are the apps used for scamming? ›

9 screen sharing apps scammers might use for financial fraud
  • 9 screen sharing apps scammers might use for financial fraud. Nov 28, 2023. ...
  • AnyDesk. ...
  • TeamViewer. ...
  • TeamViewer QuickSupport. ...
  • RemoteDroid. ...
  • TeamViewer Host. ...
  • AirMirror: Remote Control. ...
  • AirDroid: File & Remote Access.
Nov 28, 2023

What is the biggest type of cyber crime? ›

What are the 12 most common types of cyberattacks?
  • Malware.
  • Denial-of-Service (DoS) Attacks.
  • Phishing.
  • Spoofing.
  • Identity-Based Attacks.
  • Code Injection Attacks.
  • Supply Chain Attacks.
  • Social Engineering Attacks.
May 14, 2024

Which country is not sensitive to cyber security? ›

The least cybersecure countries in the world

According to Comparitech's study, the least cybersecure country is Algeria. Though it ranked well in the least number of Telnet attacks, it had a high number of computer malware infections, mobile malware and did poorly in legislation and preparation.

Which country is famous for cyber crime? ›

China tops the list of countries with the highest rate of cybercrime and is third on the list of most breached countries in the world. In 2021, China recorded up to 5,000 cases of online gambling alone out of an estimated total of 65,000 cases relating to cybercrime in the same year.

Who is most at risk of cyber crime? ›

Industries Most Susceptible to Cyberattacks
  1. Manufacturing: Industry 4.0 and the Cyber Challenge. ...
  2. Professional, Business and Consumer Services. ...
  3. Healthcare Industry: A High-Stakes Target. ...
  4. Financial Services: A Persistent Battleground. ...
  5. Energy and Utilities: Industrial Sector Under Siege.
Jan 9, 2024

What is the most commonly reported cybercrime? ›

9 Most Common Computer and Internet Cyber Crimes
  • Harassment. ...
  • Ransomware. ...
  • Prostitution. ...
  • Child p*rnography & Solicitation. ...
  • Intellectual Property Theft. ...
  • Account Hacking. ...
  • Drug Trafficking. ...
  • Credit Card Fraud.

What was the biggest cyber crime? ›

Biggest Cyber Attacks in History
  • Marriott Hotel Data Breach. ...
  • WannaCry Ransomware. ...
  • Ukraine Power Grid Attack. ...
  • The 2014 Yahoo Attack. ...
  • Adobe Cyber Attack. ...
  • The PlayStation Network Attack. ...
  • Estonia Cyber Attack. ...
  • The NASA Cyber Attack.
Jan 23, 2024

What is the most damaging cybercrime? ›

The Top 5 Most Dangerous Cyber Attacks of all Time
  1. The WannaCry Ransomware Attack (2017) The first attack on our list is the WannaCry ransomware attack. ...
  2. The NotPetya Virus (2017) The next attack on our list is the NotPetya virus. ...
  3. The Equifax Data Breach (2017) ...
  4. The Mirai Botnet Attack (2016) ...
  5. The Yahoo Data Breach (2014)

What is the #1 motive for cybercrime? ›

Many cybercriminals are primarily motivated by financial gain. They seek to steal sensitive information, such as credit card data, personal information, or login credentials, which they can sell on the black market or use for fraudulent activities. Espionage.


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