Hijackers of mobile accounts pocketed millions

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THREE members of a South Yorkshire gang who defrauded mobile phone giant Vodafone out of £2.8m by hijacking the accounts of genuine customers have been convicted.

The fraudsters were able to assign the phone numbers of the company’s customers to a SIM card in their possession by calling up and posing as the account holder.

They then used the SIM cards to repeatedly call premium rate lines they had purchased, which typically had connection charges of around £2.50 per call.

Vodafone would pay those premium rate lines for the calls before billing the genuine customer, whose only knowledge of the fraud would be that their own phone had ceased to operate.

The men were brought to trial at Blackfriars Crown Court in London after a four-year investigation by South Yorkshire Police and were yesterday convicted of conspiracy to defraud.

Waseem Rashid, 26, of Old Clifton Lane, Rotherham, gave his own details when obtaining a SIM card from a mobile phone shop and provided the details of another person to obtain a SIM which was later linked to 47 hijacks.

Imran Rasab, 35, of Hooton Road, Mexborough, was behind a company which purchased thousands of mobile phone customer details from marketing companies. He was found in possession of SIM “gateway” equipment with multiple card slots, used to dial several phone numbers at the same time.

Nadeem Ali, 26, of Clifton Lane, Rotherham, travelled abroad to France and the Netherlands. During the trips, SIM cards were used to call international numbers and these SIM cards were linked to hijacked customers of Vodafone.

Kaleem Hussain, 30, of Maynard Road, Rotherham, had previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud. All four defendants will be sentenced on April 11 at the same court.

Detective Constable Mark Wootton of South Yorkshire Police, said a long investigation had been carried out in conjunction with several mobile phone companies targeted by the men.

He said: “Having worked on this investigation for many years, following a complex international trail of documents, false identities and fraudulent practices we then had to build an effective case and liaise with colleagues in the Crown Prosecution Service to bring this complex issue to a successful conclusion in court.

“The conspiracy was organised and highly effective and as a result some victims received bills in excess of £80,000, which must have come as a shock. Vodafone rightly and properly helped pursue these criminals.”

Mark Hughes, Vodafone’s head of security, said: “We take any fraud against our customers very seriously and had no hesitation in vigorously pursuing these individuals to get justice for the victims and to prevent others from being defrauded.”

For more information on how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud visit: www.actionfraud.police.uk or www.cifas.org.uk/identity_fraud.