Police arrest nine after smashing international premium rate phone line fraud using O2 contract SIMs
City of London Police made nine arrests across the UK on August 18 after breaking a multi million pound international premium rate phone line fraud.
Eight men and one woman were arrested in London, Essex, the West Midlands and Middlesbrough on conspiracy to defraud O2, whose contract SIM cards had been used to dial premium rate international phone lines to generate millions for the gang.
The gang used fake identities and counterfeit bank accounts to buy contract phones operating on the O2 network. SIM cards were removed from the phones and used to call international premium line telephone numbers which had been set-up by the same group, some costing up to £10 a minute to call according to police.
The gang then used telecommunication regulations in some international destinations that require UK network providers to pay the providers of an international phone service before they receive money from their own customers to pocket millions of pounds. The fraud was uncovered when O2 reported customers running up excessive bills to the police and when it attempted to have its own bills paid by the fake customers.
Police officers seized up to £15,000 worth of handsets, still in their boxes but minus their SIMs, along with hundreds of SIM cards, thousands of pounds, laptops, computers and fake documents. In one property officers also found ‘advanced fee’ fraud letters.
Mobile News understands the handsets bought as part of the scam were being sold overseas after the SIMs had been removed.
O2 is reported to have lost £1.2 million in July alone through the fraud, but the operator declined to confirm the value of losses as the case is an ongoing criminal investigation. A spokesperson for O2 confirmed it will be recovering all losses through criminal proceedings. City of London Police also declined to comment on the overall value of the fraud, but said it was a multi million pound operation.
City of London Police detective superintendent Bob Wishart said: “Today we have struck at the very heart of a complex criminal network that has been targeting the telecommunications industry to steal millions of pounds.
“Our investigation found a crime gathering momentum. Each month more SIM cards were being used to make more phone calls to premium rate lines at more expense to the network provider.”
O2 general manager for fraud and security Adrian Gorham said: “This was a sophisticated and organised attempt to defraud mobile phone operators. We are extremely pleased that our own investigation and the information we have shared with the City of London Police has resulted in these arrests.”