The Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU) targets the organised criminal gangs responsible for fraud. It is made up of officers from the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police Service as well as banking industry fraud investigators and support staff from UK Finance.

Over the past year, the unit has worked in partnership with several social media platforms to identify accounts which featured posts relating to payment crime. Over 1,600 social media accounts linked to fraudulent activity were taken down.

Overall, 75 fraudsters were convicted last year following investigations by the DCPCU, with a total of 100 years in prison handed out to defendants in fraud cases investigated by the unit. The DCPCU seized £1.65 million of assets from criminal gangs, over double the amount confiscated in the same period in 2018.

Detective Chief Inspector Gary Robinson, the head of the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), said “Fraud is a serious and growing crime, with gangs that are involved in drug trafficking and firearm offences now targeting the finances of hard-working members of the public across the UK. DCPCU officers and staff are on the frontline in the fight against fraud and these figures are testament to their hard work.”

“Last year, we stepped up our engagement with social media firms to identify and take down over 1,600 profiles used by fraudsters, and worked closely with mobile phone companies to combat scam techniques such as ‘sim swapping’.”

“By working with a wide range of partners and government agencies, we are succeeding in disrupting the activities of Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) and showing them that fraud is not a soft target.”

Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, said “The DCPCU is a powerful example of how the banking industry is working closely with law enforcement to crack down on the criminal gangs responsible for fraud.”

“Criminals are increasingly abusing social media platforms and mobile phone networks to perpetrate fraud, and so it is encouraging that the DCPCU has been strengthening its partnerships with firms in these industries.”

“We now need to build on the DCPCU’s success and ensure all sectors work together to protect the public from the threat of fraud.”

“Customers should follow the advice of our Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign to stay safe from fraud, and always question any uninvited approaches to transfer money or give away personal details in case they are a scam.”

Commander Karen Baxter, national fraud co-ordinator, City of London Police said “People who have been defrauded frequently lose more than their money – they lose confidence and a sense of security. That is why preventing people from becoming victims of fraud is one of the most important things we do.“

“The DCPCU has shown how effective it is to disrupt criminals, intent on preying on the public. In doing so, they have safeguarded thousands of people’s money – as well as their peace of mind.”

Some of the top operational successes by the DCPCU in 2019 include:

‘Money mules’ gang: A criminal gang behind a series of frauds and attempted fraud worth over £1.2 million were sentenced to nearly seven years in prison. The case involved a sophisticated organised criminal network that recruited bank staff and then transferred stolen funds through a series of ‘money mule’ accounts.

Smishing scams: Two criminals from London who committed almost half a million pounds of fraud received combined prison sentences of over 14 years. The criminals harvested bank details from customers using ‘phishing’ emails or ‘smishing’ text messages, before using ‘sim swaps’ to complete bank transfers and purchases on their accounts. In total, the account details recovered through the operation led to an estimated £27 million of fraud being disrupted and prevented.

Stolen card fraudster: A criminal who committed over £31,000 of fraud using stolen credit card details was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, and 120 hours of community work. The criminal used compromised credit cards to make a series of fraudulent transactions, including several purchases of high-value online goods (see more details here).

Social Media: Of the over 1,600 social media accounts taken down, just under 500 were used to recruit young people as “money mules”, when someone allows their bank account to be used by criminals to launder the proceeds of fraud, while nearly 250 of the accounts were involved in the trading of stolen card details online. Over 400 of the accounts removed were so-called “brokers”, who advertise goods and services at reduced prices that have been bought using stolen card details. The rest of the accounts were used for a range of fraudulent activities including “flipping”, where criminals persuade victims to invest money in exchange for a significant return that never materialises, and the sale of counterfeit money.

Commenting on the news Peter Janes, CEO and Founder of payments solution Shieldpay said “The industry is stepping up the fight against fraud and there are encouraging signs that we are moving in the right direction. But, in reality, £31.2 million of fraud prevention barely scratches the surface of a massive issue which impacts people both financially and emotionally every day. New and sophisticated methods of obtaining financial details and money from unsuspecting victims are popping up all the time, so the approach to tackling fraud must undergo a fundamental shift. This shift must put technology at the heart of the fight and ultimately stop people unknowingly transferring money into the wrong hands.”