Perfect Ed Sheeran scam shows financial scale of online fraud

Cybercrime den

By Ian Dyson, Commissioner, City of London Police

For the last 10 years, City of London Police has been the national lead police force for fraud. Fraud was seen 10 years ago as a growing threat that was beyond the capacity and capabilities of individual police forces. Roughly 70% of the frauds that are reported to us today are cyber-enabled.

There is a hierarchy of people involved in cybercrime. Right at the top, there are certain countries that are trying to hack into all sorts of systems. At the bottom, you’ve got 16-year-olds sitting in their bedrooms, pizza takeaway boxes around them, trying to hack into systems because it’s a test.

Research by the National Crime Agency shows that the majority of young people who get into this do so through gaming, where they start to look at ‘how can I get around the system’ for levels or layers. They aren’t interested in crime but in the technical challenge of defeating that system, and that is exploited by criminals. Some of these young folk are doing work in cyberspace and they have no concept that they are working for criminality.

In the middle, you’ve got criminality. Make absolutely no mistake about it, the majority of people trying to hack into your systems, the majority of the people trying to defraud the public or your organisation, are doing it for one thing only: money.

Organised crime and criminal gangs used to have their specialisms: drugs, firearms, counterfeit currency. Now this is not the case: they are into anything where they can make money. The internet allows people to make money at a scale they could not have dreamed of elsewhere. Why would anyone rob a bank these days?

One of the big frauds we’re experiencing at the moment is ticketing fraud. The days when you used to queue outside HMV on a rain-swept day to buy your concert tickets to see your favourite band are long-gone. Now you have to wait online with your finger hovering over the button; they say ‘now they’re for sale’ and in a couple of minutes they’re gone.

There are legitimate companies that do secondary ticket sales, but there are lots of criminals out there. Even a legitimate company will dispatch your tickets two weeks before the date. It’s perfect for the fraudster, because you have to wait before you realise you haven’t got your tickets. The fraudster is long-gone, having moved their website, phone and email address.

City of London Police paid for some advertising on Facebook for some Ed Sheeran tickets that were so cheap that anyone with any amount of common sense would have said there’s something wrong with this. We got interest and talked people through the process, asking them to pay by banker’s draft rather than credit card, which is a no-no online because you’ve got no protection. We took them through to where they would enter their details then told them ‘this is a City of London Police website, you’ve been scammed and here are some tips to avoid it in future’.

Had we decided to take the money from the people who were prepared to give it, in the eight hours that advert was up we would have taken £75,000. That’s why the criminals are into it.

This is based on Ian Dyson’s talk at the Socitm London and South 2018 conference in London on 15 June 2018

Perfect Ed Sheeran scam shows financial scale of online fraud

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