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Dawn raids catch 9 for massive iPhone 'fraud'

£1.3m worth of SIM skulduggery

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Eight men and one woman were arrested during dawn raids this morning at addresses across the UK connected to an alleged million-pound phone fraud.

The complex fraud allegedly involved the purchase of iPhones using dodgy credit cards. The gang then passed SIM cards on to others who used them to rack up massive phone bills calling international premium rate numbers under their control. The lines charged up to £10 a minute.

O2 settled these bills before trying, and failing, to recoup payment from the supposed customers. So the gang got paid for the lengthy calls to premium rate lines, and still had a lot of expensive iPhones to sell on.

O2 lost £1.2m in July alone, PA reports. The fraud ran for five months. A West African gang stole the phones and contracts which were then passed to another gang for 'box breaking' - splitting SIMs and handsets.

City of London Police, which is the UK's lead force for fraud investigations, raided nine addresses in London, Essex, Middlesbrough and the West Midlands. Eight men and one woman were arrested, aged 42, 34, 32, 32, 28, 26, 22, 21 and 18, on suspicion of conspiracy.

About £15,000 of phones were seized, most still in their boxes but with SIM cards removed. Fake documents, laptops, hundreds of SIMs and fake documents were also seized.

Detective Superintendent Bob Wishart, from the City of London Police, said officers had struck at the heart of a complex network attempting to steal millions of pounds from the telecoms industry.

He said: "Our investigation found a crime gathering momentum. Each month more SIM cards were being used to make more phone calls to premium rate lines at more expense to the network provider."

Wishart said cooperation with O2 showed the benefits of police forces working with private firms.

Adrian Goreham, fraud manager at O2, said the company was extremely pleased its own investigation and information uncovered and shared with the police had resulted in arrests.

The City of London police statement is here. ®

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