Conman admits using coronavirus crisis to target vulnerable people in text message scam

18 May 2020, 23:23

Mohammed Khan, 20, from Camden, London, admitted using the ongoing pandemic to target vulnerable people
Mohammed Khan, 20, from Camden, London, admitted using the ongoing pandemic to target vulnerable people. Picture: Met Police
Ewan Somerville

By Ewan Somerville

A student conman has admitted exploiting the coronavirus crisis to swindle people of their savings in a campaign of scam text messages.

Mohammed Khan, 20, bombarded victims with thousands of messages luring them to share their bank details in return for “Covid-19 tax breaks”.

The Queen Mary University politics student plead guilty to two charges following his arrested last week when police raided his home in Camden, London.

Khan used logos that replicated the UK Government websites on some of the messages and directed his targets to a fake webpage imitating official Government sites, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard.

Other fraudulent messages in the “smishing” text campaign claimed to be from mobile phone operators offering a refund due to the impact of the pandemic, again directing victims to fake websites.

The fake webpages harvested the bank details of his targets.

Khan told people they were allowed a tax return in order to get them to hand over their details
Khan told people they were allowed a tax return in order to get them to hand over their details. Picture: PA

Officers managed to recover 200 of the affected accounts.

Khan, of Camden, London, was arrested on May 14 following a search warrant on his home the previous day by the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), where a number of digital devices were seized.

He pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation and possession of article for use in fraud at Westminster Magistrates’ Court and has been remanded in custody ahead of a sentencing date.

DCI Gary Robinson, DCPCU head of unit, said: “The DCPCU will continue working with banks and mobile phone companies to clamp down on the criminal gangs callously seeking to exploit the Covid-19 crisis to defraud people.

"It is thanks to this strong collaboration between the public and private sector that we can bring these criminals to justice."

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Commander Karen Baxter, from City of London Police, added: “Criminals are seeking to profit on people’s anxiety during the pandemic, by using a national crisis to defraud their victims.

“We’re doing what we can to bring these people before the courts or to disrupt their activity to stop them preying on the public.

“We need the public to treat any unexpected text, email or phone call with suspicion and not to respond or click any link until they’ve double checked whether it’s legitimate or not.”

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