Project Plutus: Targeting fraud and money laundering

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

A man has been arrested and several mobile phones seized in Burnley following early morning raids as part of a major national operation targeting fraud and money laundering.

Officers have today (February 8) executed two search warrants at residential properties in Brush Street, Pritchard Street, Burnley following an investigation into mobile phone contract fraud.

A 33-year-old man from Burnley was arrested on suspicion of fraud by false representation, following the raid at Bush Street.

Items seized included mobile phones and packaging linked to fraud victims.

Today’s warrant is the first in a series of operational activity taking place across Lancashire as part of a national week of action aimed at disrupting organised crime networks of fraudsters across the country.

Lead by The Home Office, Project Plutus was launched in response to a Government report which discovered £12 billion of cash is laundered into the UK every year.

Det Insp Mark Riley from Lancashire Police Economic Crime Unit said: “The overall objective of Plutus is to make Lancashire and all areas of the UK a harder place for criminals to launder cash in and deter the use of criminal cash.

“Criminals involved in fraud have no place to hide in Lancashire and we will proactively target offenders who are suspected. We will also work with our partners to ensure that people do not fall victims to these scams.”


What is a mobile phone scam?
Customers are cold called by individuals impersonating employees of legitimate mobile network operators and suppliers. 

Victims are offered early handset upgrades, or new contracts, at significant discounts. Once customers have been convinced that the deals are genuine and agree to proceed, suspects then ask for their online mobile account credentials, including log-ins, address and bank account details. 

Suspects then place orders with genuine companies on behalf of victims, however select a different handset to that requested and have it shipped to the customer’s address. 

Upon receipt, suspects assure victims that this has been an error and instruct them to ‘return’ the handset to a different address not affiliated to the mobile company. These addresses are usually residential. 

Upon intercepting the ‘returned’ handsets, the suspects cease contact and victims find themselves stuck with no phone and liable for the entirety of a new contract taken out in their name.

How can you avoid becoming a victim?
If you’re unsure that the person calling you about a mobile phone or contract upgrade is an official representative of the company they claim to be from, hang up and do not reveal any personal information.

Only contact your mobile network provider on a number you know to be correct. For example, 191 for Vodafone customers, 150 for EE customers, 333 for Three customers, 202 for O2 customers, 4455 for Tesco Mobile, 789 for Virgin Mobile and 150 for Sky Mobile.

If you receive a device that you did not order or expect, contact the genuine sender immediately. The details for this will be within the parcel.

NEVER post a device directly to a given address. All genuine mobile network operators would send out a jiffy bag for you to return without you incurring additional cost.

For more information visit Action Fraud.

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