13 Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) were dismantled by the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU) in the first half of 2019, double the number in the same period last year, according to the latest figures from UK Finance. The new head of the unit, Gary Robinson, has warned that criminal gangs involved in trafficking guns and drugs are increasingly turning to online fraud, and called for more action to prevent fraudsters using social media platforms to recruit young people as “money mules”.
The DCPCU is a specialist police unit funded by the banking and finance industry that 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 support staff from UK Finance. Since it was set up in 2002, the unit has prevented or disrupted over £600m of fraud, including £6.8m in the first half of 2019.
39 fraudsters were convicted in the first half of this year following investigations by the DCPCU, with a total of 44 and a half years in prison handed out to defendants in fraud cases investigated by the unit. Over the same period, the DCPCU seized £333,000 of assets from criminal gangs, double the amount confiscated in the same period in 2018.
Detective chief inspector Gary Robinson, the newly appointed head of the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit, said:
“These figures are testament to the hard work of the DCPCU officers who are on the frontline in the fight against fraudsters. The criminals involved are becoming increasingly organised and dangerous. We are seeing gangs involved in drug trafficking and firearms offences turning to fraud, targeting victims across the UK.
“These criminals are exploiting new technologies to commit fraud, posting adverts on social media to try and recruit money mules. It’s particularly shameful that young people are being targeted in this way by these fraudsters. Meanwhile, vulnerable and elderly customers are also being tricked into handing over their money through callous scams.
“We are showing criminals that fraud is not a soft target, by tracking them down and bringing them to justice. The DCPCU is improving our capability to investigate cyber-related fraud by working more closely with other organisations and government agencies in this area.
“We will also be stepping up our engagement with social media firms to identify and take down profiles used by fraudsters, and working closely with mobile phone companies to combat scam techniques such as ‘sim swapping’.”
Katy Worobec, managing director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, commented:
“The DCPCU is central to the industry’s efforts to protect customers from fraud. Through this unique partnership between law enforcement and the finance industry, we are disrupting the gangs behind this devastating crime and making sure they have nowhere to hide.
“This forms part of a wide range of measures by the sector to combat fraud, such as investing in advanced security systems to detect suspicious transactions and catching fraudsters through the industry-wide Banking Protocol.”
Some of the top operational successes by the DCPCU in the first half of 2019 include:
“Money mules” gang: A gang of fraudsters based in South London who used compromised card details and “money mule” accounts to commit almost £200,000 of fraud were sentenced to over nine years in prison following a DCPCU investigation. In total ten defendants were sentenced including four “money mules,” one of whom was under 18.
Courier scam: A London-based gang who targeted an elderly woman in Trowbridge, Wiltshire and tricked her into handing over her bank cards through a ‘courier scam’ were sentenced to a total of 31 months in prison. The victim was persuaded to place her bank cards in an envelope and put them underneath the doormat outside the front door to be collected by a courier.
Fireplace fraudsters: Two fraudsters who scammed family-run firms of £120,000 by buying fireplaces and other high-value goods using stolen card details were jailed for a total of four years, following a DCPCU investigation.
Fake ID fraudster: A criminal who used fake IDs to go on a £152,000 fraud spree across the UK was tracked down and caught by the DCPCU using CCTV footage. Julian Mabbutt, 48, of Northampton, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison at Inner London Crown Court in April 2019.