A man has been sentenced at the Old Bailey today to 4 years and 3 months in prison for sending out scam text messages purporting to be from the NHS, banks and mobile phone providers.
Teige Gallagher, 21, of Haringey, North London, pleaded guilty to committing fraud by false representation and for being in possession of articles for use in fraud, following a successful investigation by the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), a specialist City of London and Metropolitan police unit funded by the banking and cards industry.
Intelligence work by the DCPCU and a mobile phone provider identified that Gallagher was involved in sending large-scale ‘smishing’ text message campaigns to defraud the public.
Between 1 October 2020 and 11 March 2021, Gallagher sent fraudulent text messages claiming to be from a wide range of trusted organisations, including the NHS, banks and mobile phone providers. The messages included a link to a fake webpage imitating official company websites, with the aim of tricking customers into giving away their personal and account details that could later be used to commit fraud. The messages claiming to be from the NHS requested personal and financial information, claiming the details were needed to verify and determine when the recipient would be eligible for the Covid-19 vaccination.
Officers seized and examined Gallagher’s digital devices and found that they contained thousands of telephone numbers and other personal details which are believed to belong to the victims he was planning to target.
The DCPCU police unit is working closely with the banking industry, telecoms sector and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to tackle fraud related to Covid-19. In 2020, the unit prevented almost £20 million of fraud, disrupted 26 organised crime groups (OCGs), arrested 122 suspected criminals, and secured 54 convictions.
Detective Chief Inspector Gary Robinson, head of unit at the DCPCU, said:
“Gallagher wrongfully thought he could get away with impersonating organisations and sending out scam text messages, including ones related to the Covid-19 vaccine to commit fraud.
“The DCPCU will continue to crack down on those seeking to exploit this pandemic to defraud the public, through close collaboration with the CPS, mobile phone companies and the banking industry.
“Criminals are experts at impersonating trusted organisations like the NHS, banks or the government and will try to play on people’s concerns about their finances at this difficult time. It’s therefore vital that the public follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and stop and think before parting with any money or information in case it’s a scam.”
The public is being urged to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and be vigilant against criminals exploiting the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine through scam text messages, emails and cold calls. The Covid-19 vaccination is free of charge and only available on the NHS, which will never ask for your banking details such as your card number or PIN.
Customers can report suspected scam texts to their mobile network provider by forwarding them to 7726. This will help mobile providers to take action if needed, including blocking malicious numbers. Additionally, any suspicious emails should be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org, the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) suspicious email reporting service. If you’ve provided your personal details, or lost money to a fraud, please report to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.