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Fraudster sentenced after funding luxury holidays through £50k smishing scam

A fraudster from London who went on luxury holidays abroad after harvesting details from thousands of bank customers has been sentenced to two years and nine months in prison.

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Emanuel Poku, 24, from Enfield, London, pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the UK telecommunications industry and UK banking industry, possession of an article used in fraud and possession of a false passport. He was sentenced to 33 months imprisonment at Inner London Crown on Friday 20 September. Mr Poku also received additional prison sentences of 15 months and seven months, both to run concurrently. It follows a successful investigation by the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), a specialist police unit sponsored by the banking industry that targets the criminal gangs responsible for fraud.

Poku was found to have committed £50,000 of fraud between January and April 2019 after tricking customers into giving away their financial and personal details by sending out thousands of “smishing”4 text messages imitating banks and mobile phone companies. The messages contained links to fake websites that would ask unsuspecting victims to enter their personal information, which would then be used to commit fraud. The fraudster also used ‘sim swaps’5 to complete fraudulent transfers and purchases on customers’ accounts.

The fraud was spotted through collaborative intelligence work between the DCPCU and mobile phone companies to identify criminals who are committing smishing and sim swap scams. All victims were fully refunded.

Poku was arrested on 1 April 2019 at his home address in London. A search of his property uncovered several counterfeit IDs and bank cards, over £12,000 in cash, dozens of sim cards, as well as laptops and mobile phones that had been used to commit fraud.

Internal analysis by DCPCU police officers found these devices contained over 500,000 individual mobile numbers, 35,000 card numbers and several pieces of software used to send out bulk text messages. The customer data found on these devices was subsequently linked to over £2 million of reported fraud losses. Poku was also found to have gone on a number of luxury holidays abroad, including to Paris and Mexico, believed to be funded through the proceeds of fraud.

In addition, several “phishing” websites were discovered on the laptops that imitated genuine phone companies and payment service providers and that were used to harvest victims’ personal details. These sites have all now been taken down to protect unsuspecting any more members of the public from becoming victims and having their details compromised. In total, over £5.8 million of fraud is estimated to have been disrupted or prevented as a result of this investigation.

Detective Sergeant Ben Hobbs, who investigated the case for the DCPCU, commented:

“Emanuel Poku was committing fraud on an industrial scale, funding luxury holidays around the world by stealing money from unsuspecting victims.

“His devices had been used to send “smishing” text messages to thousands of customers, trying to trick them into giving away their details before using sim swaps to complete fraudulent transactions.

“Fortunately we were able to identify this fraudster and bring him to justice, after working closely with the mobile phone companies involved.

“We would urge people to always be on the lookout for this kind of scam and follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign. Never automatically click on a link in an unexpected text message or email, as it could be a fraudster trying to harvest your personal and bank details.  Instead contact the company directly using a known email or phone number.”

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