Police have arrested three men in the Manchester borough of Rochdale after an early morning raid.
The three were alleged cyber fraudsters whom the authorities suspected of defrauding more than £1 million and illegally obtaining victims’ data.
These crimes took place between the years 2014 to 2018.
The authorities obtained four arrest warrants which they carried out at the same time. They raided addresses on Baron Street, Kensington Street, Clifford Street and Lloyd Street.
The organized arrests were a culmination of many months of investigation. More than 30 police officers took part in the raid in an operation led by the South East Regional Organized Crime Unit (ROCU).
ROCU carried out this operation with the aid of other units including the Greater Manchester Police, the National Crime Agency (NCA), the Milkstone & Deeplish neighborhood squad and the North West Regional Organized Crime Unit.
According to Phil Larratt from the National Crime Agency, this investigation kicked off after a data breach came to the attention of the South East ROCU.
He also revealed that it was the South East ROCU that first identified the fraudulent activities of the trio.
He reported that the criminals bought stolen data from payment cards, which they used to purchase goods exceeding £1 million.
A specialist cybercrime unit reported that the criminal group had made more than 300 sham online purchases.
Among the items they ordered were high-value goods. They expected to receive the items via unsuspecting courier services.
The suspects allegedly used personal bank account details they had obtained from the dark web to make these orders.
Once the suspects obtained the goods, they would transfer them to other drop-off locations in Rochdale or move them into another van.
Among these goods were copper pipes, paint, car tires as well as “ride-on” industrial lawn mowers.
These crimes left several small and mid-sized companies in Rochdale in bad financial positions, according to Greater Manchester Police Inspector Darren Callaghan.
These businesses were the primary targets of these alleged cybercriminals.
Callaghan stated that criminals consider fraud against companies to be victimless.
However, the crimes against these firms affected many people within Rochdale as most of the companies employ people from this community.
The three fraudsters are facing charges of committing fraud by false representation, an offense according to the Proceeds of the Crime Act of 2002.
The three, aged 25, 35 and 36, currently remain in police custody.
Following this unfortunate incident, Detective Inspector Rob Bryant advised companies to reevaluate their data policies.
He added that companies should remember that their customers trust them to keep their data safe.
Bryant mentioned that there are numerous cases of opportunistic cybercriminals stealing data from companies.
Some of the criminals sell these details on the darknet. There have been numerous reports and complaints about the availability of confidential data for sale on the dark web.
The Authorities’ Efforts
Bryant was thankful that with this particular case, they were able to catch and stop the organized cybercrime group.
He said that the success of the operation was due to the collaboration they had with other agencies and partners.
Bryant reported that the three men had allegedly committed more than 300 fraudulent crimes.
Larratt further assured that the National Crime Agency would continue to collaborate with the police to bring cybercriminals to book.
The NCA is still working towards finding anyone else who may have participated in these crimes, especially those who stole the personal data.
Furthermore, Larratt quipped that cybercrimes have no boundaries and are increasing by the day.
However, he assured locals that the U.K. law enforcement officers would continue to work together to combat the nuisance of cybercrimes.
The spread of cybercrimes has motivated actions by numerous actors to thwart these offenses.
Callaghan announced that the public can now participate in the fight against cybercrime.
He stated that they should report any fraud-related concerns through the Action Fraud portal.
Further, earlier this year, Barclays worked with ex-football player Sol Campbell to launch an anti-cybercrime campaign in Manchester.
They aimed at helping small businesses in the city curb the rapidly increasing crimes.
Barclays ordered a study that found that fraudsters had targeted about 44 percent of small and medium sized businesses, and managed to victimize 23 percent of their targets.
In 2017, the National Cyber Security Center produced a report indicating that the rate of cybercrimes in the U.K. is continually rising.
The NCCS CEO, Ciaran Martin, stated that it aims at making the U.K. unattractive for cybercriminals to target.
However, he added that companies need to put more effort into enhancing their cybersecurity.
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