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Founder of Banking Scam iSpoof Jailed for 13 Years

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A Metropolitan Police investigation uncovered what has been described as “the UK’s biggest ever fraud operation”, leading to a coordinated worldwide effort to arrest those involved and bring them to justice.

iSpoof’s founder, Tejay Fletcher, from East London, enabled criminals to disguise their phone numbers so they appeared to be from banks and tax offices. Many unsuspecting victims were tricked into sharing security information, giving scammers access to their accounts.

What was iSpoof and how did the scam work?

Fletcher created the website, iSpoof, which sold subscriptions to a programme designed to disguise real phone numbers. A different phone number could be set up to appear on the caller ID screen, making the recipient think it was their bank or tax office calling. It is claimed that the programme also came with “convincing hold music and call centre background sounds”.

A network of criminals used this technology to allow them to pose as employees of banks including Barclays, Santander, Halifax and Nationwide. Believing the caller to be a trusted individual, victims unwittingly disclosed their personal information, including login details. The software also allowed criminals to intercept One-Time Passcodes (OTP). The fraudsters could then access victims’ bank accounts and withdraw money, often clearing their accounts completely.

During the short time, the website was active (around 16 months), it is reported to have earned over £3.7 million, most of which went to Fletcher and funded a lavish lifestyle, including purchasing expensive cars and watches.

iSpoof was shut down in November 2022, after an 18-month investigation. Over 140 people were arrested globally, according to Europol. It is believed that there were over 70,000 victims, 40% of whom were in the United States, with another 35% of victims in the UK. Conservative estimates put losses at £100 million worldwide. Over £43 million was lost in the UK alone, with many cases being reported to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre.

After being arrested in November 2022, Tejay Fletcher pleaded guilty in April 2023 to a number of charges relating to fraud. He has been sentenced to 13 years and 4 months in prison.

While Fletcher did not defraud victims directly, the software he sold through the iSpoof website allowed the fraud to happen. The network of criminals using this software were pretending to be trusted advisers, an activity known as ‘spoofing’. By impersonating bank or tax office officials, they were able to gain the trust of those they were calling, in turn making it easier to get them to share personal information.

Unfortunately, Impersonation Scams are on the rise. They can come in the form of text messages, emails or phone calls. We may have learned to spot the red flags with email or text messages – spelling mistakes, poor grammar and incorrect web addresses – but we should also be extremely vigilant when receiving a phone call:

  • Don’t trust the information shown by Caller ID – it may be fake
  • Hang up and double-check the information directly with the real bank or person in question
  • Be wary of anyone asking for personal details, such as a username or password
  • Never give anyone remote access to your computer

It is important that you report any suspected fraud to your bank, the police and Action Fraud. There should be an investigation, which may result in a criminal conviction, however, many scammers are overseas and it can be difficult to trace where your money went or recover any assets from them in order to pay compensation.

Impersonation scams are a type of Authorised Push Payment (APP) Fraud. While authorised push payments are a great way to send money to friends or family, or to pay for a service, they have become an easy way for scammers to get almost instant access to your hard-earned cash.

Most online or telephone banking services now come with a series of warnings, checks and declarations to complete, to ensure that you take time to consider the payment you’re making and ensure you are happy to proceed. No doubt this has prevented many erroneous or fraudulent transactions from happening, but scammers have also learned ways to guide their victims through these security measures, to trick the bank into allowing these payments to be made.

Sarah Spruce, Solicitor and Head of the Professional Negligence team at TLW Solicitors says:

“We often hear that fraud victims have been coached by a scammer in advance of making a payment. For example, they might be told to tell the bank that they know the person they are paying, or that they have received separate financial advice. It seems that scammers are always one step ahead of the very systems designed to help keep us safe.

Historically, banks have been reluctant to refund money, saying that the customer is responsible for their losses, as they authorised the payment. But this position is changing and we have seen some important decisions from the Financial Ombudsman Service, saying that banks have to do much more to protect their customers, including carrying out extra checks, delaying payments or stopping them completely if they believe fraud may be involved.”

Our team of specialist lawyers have many years of experience dealing with Push Payment Fraud cases, including dealing with Financial Ombudsman Service claims and appeals.

We understand the processes involved, the paperwork that is required to be submitted and the time limits to be followed. Our digital case management systems mean that we are able to proactively pursue your claims and aim to get the best possible results in the best possible time.

We work on a ‘no win – no fee’ basis meaning that, if we agree to pursue your claim and it is unsuccessful, we will not charge you for the time we have spent on the case. Get in touch for a free, no-obligation chat about your case, by calling us on 0800 169 5925, emailing info@tlwsolicitors.co.uk, or completing the form below.

It is important to get advice as soon as possible, as strict time limits can apply.

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