The legal sector in the UK has been warned to brace itself for an increase in fraud cases in 2023, following the largest ever fraud operation by the police, involving tens of thousands of suspected criminals across the globe. The operation was successful in dismantling an international fraud website known as iSpoof, which was being used to target over 200,000 potential victims in the UK alone.
Police Successfully Dismantle Major International Fraud Website iSpoof
The iSpoof website allowed criminals to impersonate representatives from various banks including Barclays, Santander, HSBC, Lloyds, Halifax, First Direct, Natwest, Nationwide, and TSB. The website was finally taken down last week, following a combined effort from Scotland Yard’s Cyber Crime Unit, the US authorities, and Ukrainian law enforcement. This was just one phase in a world-wide operation, which has been ongoing since June 2021, targeting a suspected organised crime group.
The Met’s Cyber and Economic Crime Units, the National Crime Agency, Europol, Eurojust, Dutch authorities, and the FBI worked together to dismantle iSpoof, which enabled criminals to make it seem as if they were calling from banks, tax offices, and other official bodies. Victims of the fraud are believed to have lost tens of millions of pounds, while the operators of iSpoof earned almost £3.2 million in a 20-month period.
Rudi Kesic, CEO of Verify 365, a digital anti-money laundering and identity fraud prevention technology platform, says,
“Law firms are particularly vulnerable to fraud, with criminals often posing as trusted organisations to deceive clients into handing over their personal and financial information. The recent crackdown on iSpoof is a positive step in the fight against fraud, but law firms need to do their part in protecting themselves and their clients. Technology platforms such as Verify 365 can help by providing a secure and efficient fraud prevention solution for client onboarding and identity verification, reducing the risk of fraud and ensuring the protection of sensitive client information.”
Hundreds were arrested over suspected fraud in the UK
Following the iSpoof crackdown, over 100 people have been arrested in the UK, with the vast majority being suspected of fraud. iSpoof allowed users to disguise their phone numbers, making it seem as if they were calling from a trusted source. This process, known as spoofing, was used to trick victims into handing over money or sensitive information, such as one-time passcodes to bank accounts.
In the 12 months leading up to August 2022, an estimated 10 million fraudulent calls were made globally via iSpoof, with around 3.5 million of those calls made in the UK. The average loss reported by victims who have been targeted is believed to be £10,000. The full amount of losses is believed to be much higher, as fraud is vastly underreported.
The Met’s Cyber Crime Unit began investigating iSpoof in June 2021 under the name of Operation Elaborate. The website server contained a treasure trove of information, including 70 million rows of data and Bitcoin records, which were traced by investigators. The pool of 59,000 potential suspects is large, and investigators are focusing first on UK users and those who spent at least £100 of Bitcoin to use the site.
The operation has resulted in a wave of UK arrests, with details of other suspects being passed on to law enforcement partners in Holland, Australia, France, and Ireland.
“The fight against the exploitation of technology by organised criminals continues to be a significant challenge for law firms in the 21st century, but this operation shows the determination of the police to target corrupt individuals who exploit vulnerable victims,”
“The level of fraud in the legal sector has reached unprecedented levels. It’s more important than ever for law firms and individual lawyers to take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their clients from financial crime.”
Rudi highlighted the need for increased education and awareness about fraud in the legal sector, as well as stronger anti-fraud measures and protocols. Law firms and individual conveyancers are encouraged to review their current security measures and implement the latest AML technology, if necessary.
The legal sector plays a critical role in protecting the interests of individuals, companies, and society as a whole. The recent increase in fraud is a serious concern, and it’s imperative that steps are taken to prevent further damage.
Verify 365 technology provides a solution for law firms
Verify 365 is proud to offer a solution to the ongoing problem of fraud in the legal industry and is committed to helping law firms protect themselves and their clients from the negative impacts of fraud.
For more information on how Verify 365 can help protect your firm against fraud, visit www.verify365.com.
This article was submitted to be published by Verify365 as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Family Lawyer. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Family Lawyer.