Students targeted in £3m phone fraud

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A student is believed to have been arrested for alleged involvement in a suspected smartphone fraud scheme which has scammed students out of thousands of pounds.

The student, who has not been named for legal reasons, is said to have been implicated in a pyramid scheme which targeted university students across the country.

The news follows the launch of Operation Rosewood by the National Mobile Phone Crime Unit to investigate hundreds of cases of suspected fraud.

Under the scheme, students were approached and offered cash incentives to register for a smartphone contract. They would then be asked to send on the phone to an unnamed private company in exchange for a £50 reward and the promise of a monthly income. However, students involved were left responsible for phone bills and are now reported to be incurring ‘significant’ debts.

Police also believe students who divulged bank details may be at risk of identity fraud.

Students are said to have pitched the scheme to friends by sending a Facebook message which asked for bank details, describing ‘a rare opportunity to make quite a lot of money for very little work’.

A number of students at Leeds have been victims of the scheme, with those affected urged to contact the Student Advice Centre. In a statement, the Union said, ‘Leeds University Union is supporting West Yorkshire Police in their investigation but after already supporting many students who have been affected, stresses that the welfare of Leeds students is paramount’.

Police are speaking to one student who is now struggling with debts of over £10,000. Around twenty people have now been arrested in connection with the scheme, though no charges have been made.

The Gryphon understands around two-thirds of reported cases have yet to be investigated, with a suspected £3 million of students’ money involved.

The National Mobile Phone Crime Unit has confirmed that thousands of pounds have been made from the scheme. Speaking to this newspaper, the University’s Police Liaison Officer PC Matt Guy described the case as ‘shocking’.

He explained, ‘Many students do not know they have been subject to a fraud until the bills come through their post box and debt agencies contact them, often for amounts in excess of £1,000’.

The National Mobile Phone Crime Unit has written to a number of UK universities, including Leeds, urging them to highlight the issue of identity fraud among students.

Operation leader, Detective Inspector Louise Shea, said, ‘We understand this matter will be of considerable concern to the students and family members affected 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 affected to come forward to assist the investigation and prevent this happening to anyone else’.

The investigation continues.

Charlotte Mason

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