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Crown Prosecution Service warns general public to guard against COVID-related fraud

20 July 2020

THE CROWN Prosecution Service (CPS) has warned the public to beware of fraudsters exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic after a man was jailed for 30 weeks for offering fake Government refunds. Mohammed Khan, 20, sent more than one thousand texts claiming to be from the authorities offering refunds to people as part of the Government’s response to the pandemic.

In total, Khan obtained 191 sets of personal details and used 49 for fraud. The total loss to his victims was £10,019.17.

One text message read: ‘UKGOV: You are eligible for a Tax Refund as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Please fill out the following form so that we can process your refund.’

Andrew Penhale, head of the specialist fraud division at the CPS, said: “As law enforcement agencies see a rise in people exploiting the Coronavirus crisis to commit fraud, the CPS continues to evolve its response to the challenges we all face. Our prosecutors are prepared for any potential increase in fraud-related files for us to consider and are focused on the essential work of keeping the public safe.”

Khan’s call data showed that he had sent out 1,200 such text messages over two days.

The messages contained links to fraudulent websites which looked identical to the real ones. Recipients were told to access these sites and enter their personal details including their name, address, card security number, mother’s maiden name and passwords.

Khan also faked messages from mobile phone company Three UK. He sent customers a message that read: ‘Due to the current pandemic we are issuing a refund for your last bill. Please verify your details so we can process your refund.’

He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to fraud and the possession of articles for use in the course of fraud between 22 March and 9 May 2020.

Patricia Deighan, Crown Advocate at the CPS, stated: “This was a manipulative and pre-meditated fraud that affected at least 49 victims who lost money. When police arrested Khan at his home, he initially claimed to have lost his phone, but when officers called his number, they could hear the phone ringing and Khan later pointed out that the handset was outside on the balcony. I hope this sentence serves as a reminder that the CPS will work with criminal justice partners to root out and prosecute fraudsters at every opportunity.”