HMRC catches website scammer 6,500 miles away
Cybercrime experts at HMRC have helped bring down a prolific fraudster who sold criminals software to scam UK taxpayers
Sara White, Editor, Accountancy Daily
HMRC worked with Indonesian cybercrime police to track down and arrest the 36-year-old in a remote village – a 12-hour drive from Medan, the capital of North Sumatra.
The man, who has not been named, now faces up to 12 years in prison for selling website phishing kits that targeted UK taxpayers.
He posted more than 3,000 adverts in just a year promoting the illegal spoofing software on social media channels and crime forums for up to $250 (£200) each.
The software mimicked genuine webpages of major websites in the UK, including HMRC, Royal Mail and TV Licensing. HMRC is the third most scammed website after the NHS and TV Licensing.
The scammers operated across the UK, Canada, US and Australia, faking websites for global banks, tax authorities and government departments.
HMRC launched an investigation earlier this year and worked alongside international partners, including the Indonesian National Police, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, FBI and Australian Federal Police.
Simon Grunwell, operational lead in HMRC’s fraud investigation service’s cybercrime team, said: ‘This case shows that we can and do work across borders and with international law enforcement partners to combat tax crime in all its forms to make the world a smaller place for criminals like this.
‘HMRC is one of the most spoofed organisations in the UK and we are doing all we can to protect the taxpayer from criminal attack, even if that attack is launched from the other side of the world. This case should show to others involved in fraud that we can and will find you.
‘Our expert teams use various tools to detect phishing scammers and we are grateful for support from police in Indonesia who helped locate and arrest the suspect in this case. We also received vital support from partners in Canada, the US and Australia.
‘We continue to urge taxpayers to be aware that scammers often pose as HMRC. If someone contacts you saying they’re from HMRC and asks you to give personal information or urgently transfer money, be on your guard. Search ‘HMRC scams’ advice on gov.uk to find out how to report scams and help us fight these crimes.’
A spokesperson for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said: ‘The suspect, identified with the aid of the cybercrime investigation team in Ottawa, targeted the Canada Revenue Agency along with other Canadian businesses and financial institutions.
‘The RCMP continue to foster international relationships in order to better address the borderless nature of cybercrime and cybercriminals across the globe.
‘This file illustrates the strengthening of international cooperation to detect, disrupt and deter illegal cyber activities that threatens Canada’s integrity, economy and reputation.’
HMRC investigators travelled to Jakarta earlier this year and they returned to the country last month to meet with superintendent Ardian Satrio Utomo, the chief of cybercrime sub directorate Polda Metro Jaya, and to recover intelligence following the arrest. A Bitcoin wallet was seized along with electronic devices.
Anyone with information about any type of tax fraud can report it to HMRC by calling the Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.