Three men have been jailed after defrauding elderly bank customers of more than £390,000 and laundering the cash through multiple fake accounts.
Taminder Virdi from Ilford, and Abubakar Salim from Leyton, who both worked at the same TSB branch in Stoke Newington in 2014, transferred funds out of customer accounts into 65 fraudulent beneficiary accounts they had opened.
These accounts were controlled by accountant Babar Hussain from East Ham.
Officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA) were alerted to their activity when one of the eight victims, all of whom were in their 70s, reported that £56,000 had been transferred out of their bank account without consent. That money was then deposited into seven beneficiary accounts opened in different names.
Hussain was arrested in 2016 and officers recovered a number of fraudulently obtained genuine driving licenses, which Virdi and Salim used along with fake gas and electric bills to open up the beneficiary accounts.
When he was interviewed, Hussain claimed that part of his work in the community involved opening and managing bank accounts for those just arriving in the UK with no fixed address.
Messages on Hussain’s mobile phone identified other victims of fraud, where Virdi and Salim abused their position within the bank to access their accounts and transfer money into beneficiary accounts.
Virdi was arrested in 2016 and Salim in 2017.
Following the internal investigations, TSB reported the incidents to the police and assisted the NCA fully with the investigation.
All three were charged with fraud by abuse of position and money laundering.
Hussain was jailed for five years and four months.
Virdi and Salim were found guilty in April 2019 and were sentenced to three years and six months and four years respectively.
Mike Hulett, Head of Operations at the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, said:
“Hussain is a professional money launderer who used his accountancy knowledge to steal hundreds of thousands of pounds from elderly banking customers.
All the customers who lost money were fully reimbursed by the banks.
If you have any experiences with this kind of scam do let me know, by email.
Throughout lockdown Neighbour Watch have been sending a short survey to their Associations across England and Wales every two weeks, asking them whether people in their area perceive that crime had gone up, down or stayed the same over the previous 2 weeks and what crimes people felt had increased or were more concerned about.
The results of each of the surveys were collated and sent to the Home Office to add a community perspective to the police recorded crime data they receive from police forces.
Initially most respondents (53%) reported that crime in their area had decreased since lockdown started. With people being at home the majority of the time there was a reduction in burglaries and in personal crime on the streets.
The types of crime that people felt were rising are fraud, car crime and thefts outside of homes.
Crime increased on driveways, in gardens and sheds, with thefts from and of motor vehicles and of garden furniture.
Fly-tipping increased significantly.
As time went on, antisocial behaviour was reported as a growing problem – perhaps due to young people unable to attend school and adults unable to work.
Drug-taking and dealing became more obvious as drug dealers and those buying from them were more noticeable.
Burglaries were taking place at the homes of key workers and their vehicles were targeted in car parks whilst they were at work.
As some of the lockdown restrictions were relaxed, concerns about antisocial behaviour started to rise further – litter and fires from barbecues at beauty spots, noise nuisance from neighbours and more people breaching lockdown rules.
So, basically crime continued throughout Lockdown although some types of crime reduced and some increased.
If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-wasters do let me know, by email.
Every year tens of thousands of people in the UK are conned by online scammers, but it is not only the authorities taking action – “scam baiters” take the fight to the scammers.
Wayne and Jill are scam baiters. Jill explained her approach and some examples on a BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme.
“We waste scammers’ time, we waste their resources and we make them believe they are not as good as they think they are,” “Scammers are always going to be there but if we can take them down a peg and take a victim away from them any time we can, then we are doing something good,” says Jill.
The scam baiters often publish online their interactions with the scammers as a way of warning people.
The aim is for these to appear in search engine results, so potential victims will be alerted if they type in the scammer’s name.
The Scam baiters don’t make money from their actions – they do it to stop others being scammed. For Wayne, the motivation is simply the “buzz” he receives from knowing he can help someone.
Wayne’s Set-Up as a Scam Baiter
Wayne works under various aliases, mostly named after characters from his favourite children’s television shows of the past.
He often makes himself seem more vulnerable – and potentially gullible – by pretending to have recently broken up from a partner.
Both Wayne and Jill always wait to be approached by scammers, rather than seeking them out. Their names are on a so-called “suckers list” – effectively a database of people thought to be easy to con – which is passed around by scammers online.
The latest to get in touch is a man who emails Jill to say she has won the lottery in Africa. Pretending to be husband and wife, Wayne and Jill make a joint contact back, the aim being to waste the scammer’s time by arguing about which one of them gets the money. Surprisingly, Jill considers her biggest success to be the time she received a death threat from a scammer she had targeted.
“If you get a death threat you know you’ve really wound someone up. I had one scammer driving round Madrid for a day trying to find ‘Lynn’, who had gone to Madrid.
“Of course, I hadn’t gone to Madrid, I was in my front room. Jill tells it as a funny anecdote, but it underlines the seriousness involved.
“I take great care in protecting my online persona,” she says. “I bait with email addresses that aren’t traceable. I don’t use any of my real-life information. All of my characters are based somewhere hundreds of miles away from where I live.”
Identity theft is where a criminal gets personal information on someone and pretends to be that person so they can take out credit cards, bank accounts, loan agreements etc. in that person’s name.
Identity thieves generally don’t care about the age of their targets as long as they are over 18 (so they can buy alcohol etc. with the fake identity) but increasingly the over-60s age group are being targeted.
F‑Secure ID PROTECTION alerts you if your personal information appears in a data breach and gives you expert advice on how to prevent a data breach from becoming identity theft. The APP also protects your identity by offering a secure password manager.
F-Secure say that with a combination of human intelligence and dark web monitoring, they will be the first to know if your personal information has been exposed in a data breach.
If a data breach occurs and your information is exposed, they provide expert advice for each individual type of personal information.
To register for the service, you have to pay and you give them your email address which is what they monitor. They watch for any data breaches and check if your email address or other details have been exposed.
A data breach is where hackers gain unauthorised access to an organisation’s information which can include their customer’s data i.e. possibly your personal information.
It costs £3.99 per month or £26.90 per year to monitor up to 5 email addresses for data breaches.
If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-waster do let me know, by email.
To build up lists of email addresses that can be sold to spammers and scammers, hackers run software that scans websites and looks for email addresses.
This is called email harvesting and is done on a huge scale.
The hackers typically scan websites, mailing lists, internet forums, social media platforms and anywhere else they can find email addresses online.
The characteristic format for an email address is firstname.lastname@example.org so it is simple for email harvesters to read web pages and look for the @ symbol as it seldom occurs anywhere on webpages except in an email address.
The harvesters can also check for unusual variations on that theme e.g. User[at]domain.com or User[AT]domain[DOT]com
How to Protect Email Addresses
There are a series of steps you can take to protect any email addresses on your website from being harvested. These range from the simple to seriously complex and which method you should use depends on how much of a problem you have with harvesting.
Method 1 – Replacing the email address with a picture showing the email address
Method 2 – Separate the Email Address From the Website
The email address can be in a redirect statement
Method 3 – Mask the Email Address
This can be done by using HTML encoding e.g. using @ replaces the @ sign.
All characters can be encoded in this manner which makes the address difficult for the harvesters to find.
The address can be divided into several parts that are dynamically composed by the browser when the website is called up.
Method 5 – Use a Captcha
A CAPTCHA is a type of challenge–response test you can add to a website page to ensure it is being read by a person not by software.
These have become very common on many websites so most people are used to them now.
Method 6 – Use a Contact Form
Instead of posting an e-mail address on a web page, create a contact form. This can capture more information in a structured manner from the user and lets you hide the email address in a separate script file.
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