Martin Lewis and his team at MoneySavingExpert.com have been urging people not to ignore a text sent to them by the Met Police between November 24-25. The text is being sent as part of one of the biggest anti-fraud, anti-scam operations in British policing with 70,000 people expect to receive texts in a 48-hour window.
Known as operation Elaborate, the anti-fraud investigation is targeting scammers who disguise themselves as trustworthy sources such as banks and building societies. On a page dedicated to the operation on its website, the Met said: “The Met has led an international investigation targeting a website that enabled criminals to disguise their phone number and commit fraud, a practice known as spoofing.
“Criminals try to steal personal information by making it look like they’re contacting you from a trusted organisation, such as a bank or building society. The Met has taken down a website that was used to make 10 million spoof calls between June 2021 and July 2022.”
The website, known as iSpoof helps scammers appear to be either calling or texting from banks, tax offices and other official bodies and may have successfully targeted up to 200,000 victims, says Met Police. Of these victims, the Met has identified 70,000 people who will receive texts yesterday or today (November 24 or 25).
Martin, whose name and image have been used by scammers in the UK said: “I’ve warned people against unexpected text messages for years. So as this is an exception, it’s really important to spread the message. For a 48-hour window, starting at midnight on Thursday 24 November, be on the lookout for a text from the Metropolitan Police – even if you don’t live in London – as these will be sent to 70,000 people.
“If you do get it, there won’t be a link in it, but you will be directed to the website met.police.uk/elaborate (if there is a clickable link, or the website is different, it could be a scammer spoofing it, so be careful). There you will be able to help police investigate a vicious form of spoof-fraud that has stolen people’s cash and had a big mental health impact on many.
“There is also a very slight chance – I don’t want to overblow it – that some of the people who have been defrauded by these scams could get a little of their money back due to this investigation. So it is even more worth co-operating with the police in those circumstances.”
The Met says fraudulent calls made via iSpoof have cost victims a total of at least £48 million, based on Action Fraud reports. But because fraud is vastly underreported, the full amount is believed to be much higher.
One victim lost £3 million, while the average loss among the 4,785 people who have reported being targeted to Action Fraud is £10,000.
If you think you have been scammed or someone has attempted to scam you the best thing you can do is report it. You can report scams to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, or anonymously on the Action Fraud website . If you’re in Scotland, you can report scams to Police Scotland directly by calling 101.
If you think you have been scammed it’s always best to act fast. Contact your bank and inform them that you believe you have had information stolen.