As police arrest 23 people at locations including Wandsworth
University students are being warned to be extra careful or they could run up large telephone debts in a suspected mobile phone fraud.
The National Mobile Phone Crime Unit (NMPCU) has launched an investigation into a suspected mobile phone fraud targeting students at universities across the UK.
The unit has arrested 23 people in connection with the investigation on suspicion of fraud related offences at addresses around the south east, including Hammersmith and Fulham.
It says 20 of those arrested are men, three are women, and all are aged between 19 and 29 years old. All have been bailed to return on various dates from November 2014 to February 2015 pending further enquiries.
The arrests were made on 5, 12 and 18 August at various locations in Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Wandsworth, West Sussex and Surrey.
University students across the country have been offered cash incentives to entice them into registering for personal mobile phone contracts which are then used for the benefit of a private company. Invariably the student would receive a high value smart phone on a lengthy network contract, but then send on the phone and SIM card to the private company for a small cash incentive and the promise of a modest monthly income. However, the students involved are now running up significant debts.
It is believed that students may have divulged significant detail about their bank accounts, credit or debit cards and personal circumstances, making them susceptible to identity fraud.
The NMPCU has written to a number of UK universities, asking them to highlight the issue to students and urging them to stay vigilant. The major UK mobile phone networks and other industry partners have been made aware of the investigation to best support the affected students.
Detective Inspector Louise Shea, of the NMPCU, who is leading the operation, said:
"The NMPCU is working closely with the major UK mobile phone networks and universities affected in this large-scale and complex investigation. We understand that this matter will be of considerable concern to the students and family members effected as they will be accruing significant debts. We are committed to ensuring that those engaged in fraudulent activity do not escape justice.
"We urge any students that have been effected by this to come forward to assist the investigation and prevent this happening to anyone else."
* Inform your bank or building society as soon as possible.
* Change financial and email account passwords and security questions. Particular care should be taken to close any compromised accounts. Also ensure that other family members do not use account passwords such as your mother's maiden name, these should also be changed.
* Obtain a copy of your credit report. This will identify searches conducted by a lender, date of search, type of application and which credit accounts are set up in your name. You can contact any one of the three credit reference agencies and receive support in resolving credit report problems caused by identity fraud: Callcredit - Equifax - Experian
* Look at your credit report closely. If you find entries from organisations you don't normally deal with, contact them immediately.
Prevent yourself becoming a victim:
* Never divulge private information data in response to a personal approach, email, text, letter or phone call unless you are certain that the request is from a reliable source.
* Check your statements carefully and report anything suspicious to the bank, financial or mobile service provider concerned.
* The three credit reference agencies offer a credit report checking service to alert you to any key changes on your credit file that could indicate potential fraudulent activity: Callcredit - Equifax - Experian
* Don't throw away entire bills, receipts, credit-card or debit-card slips, bank statements or even unwanted post in your name. Destroy unwanted documents, preferably by using a shredder.
* Keep your personal documents in a safe place, preferably in a locked drawer or cabinet at home.
* Change passwords regularly.
If you suspect you or a family member has been effected by this, you should email the NMPCU providing your contact details, your registered university and brief details of the issue. In an emergency, you should always phone 999 for an immediate response if an incident is happening now or if anyone is in immediate danger.
For advice on how to protect yourself from a fraud of this kind, please call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
20th August 2014