North East Regional Special Operations Unit

Operation Thistle Arrests

News / June 28

On 27/06/2017 a 37 year old man and 35 year old woman were arrested on suspicion of fraud by NERSOU Officers. This type of fraud concerns computer software service fraud.

Operation Thistle is part of a multi-agency investigation into Computer Service Fraud involving City of London Police, NERSOU, Surry and Sussex Police Cyber Crime Unit, Metropolitan Police collaborating with Microsoft. Further arrests have also been made by these partners across UK.

For the financial year 2016/17, there were 34,504 computer software service fraud reports made to Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber reporting centre, with attributed losses of £20,698,859. This accounts for 12% of all reports to Action Fraud, making it the third most reported fraud type.  The average loss suffered by victims is £600 and the average age of victims is 62. Despite these losses the number of victims is thought to be much higher as analysis shows many fail to report.

Computer software service fraud involves the victim being contacted and told that there is a problem with their computer and that, for a fee, the issue can be resolved. No fix actually occurs. Once the fraudster has access to the victim’s computer they can install software which could potentially be malicious. The victim is cold called the majority of times but recently there has been an increase in contact via a pop-up on the victim’s computer which then prompts them to phone the suspect.

The victim is persuaded to grant remote access to their computer and provide payment details. The fraudster then uses a variety of methods to obtain access to the victim’s bank account to extract large sums of money. The victim may also be contacted again later and are told they are due a refund and they are again asked for access to the account. The fraudster will use this opportunity to take more money. 

The fraudster often claims to be calling from Microsoft, or other technology companies, in order to give them more credibility with the caller.

The two year collaboration came about due to the growth in reports of this crime to Action Fraud and Microsoft.

Realising that you’ve fallen victim to a scam is a horrible experience for anyone. Not just the loss of money but also the feeling that you’ve been tricked and that your personal information has been stolen. Unfortunately, the names of reputable companies, like Microsoft, are often used by criminals to lull victims into a false sense of security. That’s why we partnered with the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau to track these people down and bring them to justice. It’s a collaboration which can cohesively combat and investigate computer service fraud. Today’s arrests are just the start.

Detective Superintendent Alan Veitch, of NERSOU, the North East Regional Special Operations Unit said: "We are determined to tackle online fraud, which we know affects many people across the UK. 

"Tackling organised crime is a priority for us and we work together with other agencies to deal effectively with it by providing investigative and technical resources and doing all we can to safeguard victims."

As well as this investigation we at NERSOU are proactively making the public aware of this type of scam in order to prevent further members of the public being targeted. Please feel free to use the details on the flyer below.

© NERSOU 2018