Six face sentencing for Internet fraud, ID theft

A London court will hear today that six fraudsters used the Internet to obtain false identities and con banks out of £350,000

Six men will be sentenced at Wood Green Crown Court on Friday, after pleading guilty to using the Internet to defraud UK banks to the tune of £350,000.

The six men, aged between 21 and 39, obtained false identities over the Internet and used them to open bank accounts, arrange overdrafts and apply for credit cards, according to the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU), which was responsible for investigating the crimes and arresting the men.

According to the NHTCU, Lloyds TSB was hardest hit, losing £315,000 while the Halifax and the Co-operative Bank lost a combined total of £30,000 over a period of two years.

The NHTCU said in a statement that it has "retrieved thousands of individual pieces of evidence ranging from passports to utility bills from a variety of addresses in London and the Home Counties."

ID theft is growing concern for both individuals and corporations alike. In the second half of 2003, Internet banking customers of NatWest, Lloyds TSB, Barclays, Citibank and Halifax have received fraudulent emails that appear to be from their bank, linked to sites designed to extract customers' usernames and passwords.

The National Criminal Intelligence Service, which works with the UK's law enforcement agencies to fight organised crime, is concerned because the general population is often not computer-literate enough to tell the difference between a spoof email or Web site and a genuine one.

Separately, 125 people have been arrested over the past seven weeks by various law-enforcement agents for Internet-related crimes that included fraud, hacking and selling stolen goods, US officials announced on Thursday.

The cybercrime sweep, which involved police from Ghana to Southern California, uncovered 125,000 victims, who had lost more than $100m (£64m). "The information superhighway should be a conduit for communication, information and commerce, not an expressway for crime," US Attorney General John Ashcroft told Reuters.