Billion dollar bank fraud foiled by UK crime fighters

Banking fraudsters duped investors with fake Web pages

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) today revealed details of an investigation into an Internet banking fraud scheme estimated to have been worth £2.7bn.

The ICC's Commercial Crime Bureau (CCB) carried out a six month investigation into the high-tech banking fraud scheme before putting a stop to it with support from the Commercial Crime Services (CCS) Cybercrime Unit (CCU).

An organised group of fraudsters created fake online European banking guarantees claiming to have been issued by one of 29 European banks in a scheme designed to entice investors to hand over money. The plot involved building Web pages disguised as those belonging to Bloomberg and Euroclear, an international system for clearing securities and Eurobonds. Examples of the fake addresses include www.euroclear30.50megs.com and www.bloomberg.50megs.com.

"The amounts represented on the fraudulent sites ranged from $50m to over $400m," says Jon Merrett, assistant director of ICC's Commercial Crime Bureau and Cybercrime Unit. Merrett says that some investors have been swindled out of as much as £48,000 and further victims are still coming forward.

The ICC believes the fraudsters are based in the US and the Far East, and hopes to enlist the help of criminal police investigators in bringing them to justice. Merrett also said that this case highlights the danger of identity theft on the Internet and threatened to dent confidence in online banking technology.

"By shutting down the fraudulent sites in cases like this, we are not only protecting investors from scams, but also helping companies such as Bloomberg to maintain their reputation," he said.

"The big risk is that these frauds could rock the trust that the banking, finance and insurance industries are built on."

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