A man has been remanded in custody pending sentencing after he pleaded guilty to sending fraudulent text messages related to the coronavirus outbreak.

The individual sent a large number of text messages which said that they were sent by the Government and that the recipient could claim a tax refund as a result of the health emergency. However, the messages were a scam, designed to allow the man to gather the individuals’ bank account details. The messages contained a link to a website that was designed to look like an official Government webpage. The court heard that his site was “remarkably similar to UK government websites,” especially with regard to his use of logos and insignia.

The individual also passed on the consumers’ data to other scammers.

He pleaded guilty at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Friday May 15 to charges of fraud by false representation and possession of articles for use in fraud.

Judge Jacobs told the individual:

“You have pleaded guilty to a sophisticated fraud in which I’m perfectly satisfied you are the main player.

“What you did was to prey on the vulnerability of the majority of people in society who at this present moment are worried, petrified, fearful about their future, about their jobs, about their homes, making ends meet, getting back to work or whether they still have a job.

“Along you come, praying on those people, on anyone who might be gullible enough, and there are people sadly who would click on these scams including the elderly and others who are vulnerable because of the circumstances we find ourselves in right now.”

The investigation was carried out by the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), a specialist police unit funded by the banks.

Action Fraud has reported that UK consumers have suffered losses of more than £3.5 million from coronavirus-related scams since the lockdown started in late March. Trend Micro, a multinational cybersecurity and defence company, has conducted a survey which reveals that 20% of the world’s Covid-19 spam messages are sent to UK email addresses, more than any other country.

DCI Gary Robinson, head of unit at the DCPCU, said:

“Through this investigation, we have acted swiftly to arrest and charge an individual involved in sending out fraudulent messages related to Covid-19. A large number of account details have also been recovered, helping to prevent customers from falling victim to fraud.

“The DCPCU will continue working with banks and mobile phone companies to clamp down on the criminal gangs callously seeking to exploit the Covid-19 crisis to defraud people. It is thanks to this strong collaboration between the public and private sector that we can bring these criminals to justice.”

The information shown in this article was correct at the time of publication. Articles are not routinely reviewed and as such are not updated. Please be aware the facts, circumstances or legal position may change after publication of the article