LONDON-WIDE CLAMPDOWN ON INVESTMENT FRAUD
The Met are supporting a London-wide clamp down on investment fraud which sees fraudsters contact victims and offer them deals which sound too good to be true is being supported by the Metropolitan Police.
The ‘too good to be true’ deals include opportunities to invest in wine, art, jewels and property.
The products do not exist and perpetrators spend victims’ money on lavish living and paying for the offices – or ‘boiler rooms’ – from which they operate their scams.
Figures released by City of London Police show that between October 2013 and September 2014, victims reported losing over £1.73 billion through such frauds.
Operation Broadway, launched on Thursday, 19 March, saw officers from City of London Police, City of London Corporation Trading Standards and the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) team up to visit 25 offices in the Square Mile, Canary Wharf and Westminster.
This was part of a coordinated and intelligence-led drive to uncover boiler rooms and inform the virtual and serviced office providers who are unwittingly providing criminals with addresses to run their scams from.
Subsequent checks of company lists directed the teams to 17 serviced offices suspected of being involved in some sort of investment scam.
Workers were warned of the consequences of being found to be part of criminal operations. Enquiries are ongoing.
Officers also talked with office workers outside London transport hubs during morning rush hour and the lunchtime break, advising them of warning signs that criminal groups may have set up in their office blocks.
Such signs include companies making up-front cash payments and choosing short-term leases; operating unusual hours of business and not displaying their name in reception areas.
They gave the workers flyers advising them what to do if they suspect investment fraudsters are in their office block – namely reporting it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
While seeking to disrupt boiler room activity Operation Broadway is also focussed on education; working with industry to stop the fraudsters before they gain access to the facilities they need to run their operations.
City of London Police Detective Superintendent Maria Woodall, overseeing Operation Broadway, said: “Operation Broadway is a coordinated, multi-agency partnership using intelligence to identify and target investment frauds in the making, before they properly get off the ground and really get their claws into people who are simply looking to put their money in a safe place where it will give them a decent rate of return.
“To do this we are working closely with mail forwarding and serviced office providers, stressing the importance of them being fully aware of how their premises are being used and the need for them to act quickly if they have evidence that their office space has been turned into a base for a boiler room fraud.
“At the same time we are also drawing in more and more intelligence from workers who are increasingly operating as our eyes and ears in London’s office blocks.
“We are finding this multi-faceted approach, also drawing on a combination of Police, Trading Standard, Financial Conduct Authority and HMRC powers, to be a powerful and effective way to tackle investment fraud and stop callous and ruthless criminals stealing and then blowing money that many of their victims had put aside to sustain them through retirement.”
DCI Andrew Gould of the MPS’ cyber crime and fraud team, FALCON, said: “Investment fraudsters are manipulative, persistent and convincing, so we’re working with our partners across London to raise awareness of these scammers.
“We are asking people at home to be wary of any unsolicited calls from people offering investment deals and people at work to be vigilant for any suspect activity in their office buildings.” (Source: Metropolitan Police press release.)