New police anti-fraud bureau makes first arrests
The new National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has made its first arrests.
The three men and one woman are suspected of running a fraudulent music and sporting ticket sales website, Gigsport.com. Many customers said they never received their tickets.
Once the bureau - part of City of London Police - had intelligence of 250 alleged victims, it launched Operation Cyborg, which led to the arrests.
Police believe hundreds of people may have been deceived by the online scam.
A man and a woman were arrested at their home near Waltham Abbey, Essex just before 0700 BST on Thursday.
Another man was arrested in an office on the edge of the City of London, where police officers seized paperwork and computers. A third man was also arrested in London.
Gigsport.com was still available on the internet on Thursday, advertising tickets for Cliff Richard and the Six Nations rugby tournament, among other events.
David Gray, from Meopham in Kent, paid more than £1,000 for Wimbledon tickets in June but never received them.
"What I was surprised at was the actual make-up of the actual website, which was very professional and very tempting indeed," he said.
Tammy Foster, from Birmingham, spent £185 on two Pink concert tickets that never arrived.
Describing her emotions when she found out she had been ripped off, she said: "I wanted to kill someone. I was absolutely disgusted.
"It was made worse because my partner had bought the tickets for my birthday."
She added: "One time when I did phone up, they were verbally abusive to me, telling me to basically go to Trading Standards, and that nothing was going to get done about it and not to phone their office again."
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau was launched on 16 June.
At the heart of the NFIB is a computer system which takes in data from banks, police forces, government departments, the NHS, Royal Mail, phone companies and Trading Standards departments among others.
The computer server is in Gloucestershire, but it is operated by City of London Police officers.
Specially-designed software allows officers and analysts to map fraud networks, and see how far their tentacles spread. This means the force can focus on the fraudsters doing the greatest damage, and nip growing networks in the bud.
City of London Police's head of economic crime, Det Ch Supt Steve Head, said: "The vast majority of our victims are the vulnerable. They are the elderly. They are, in actual fact, targeted - deliberately targeted - by serious organised criminal families and networks. They know what they are doing, and they will target these people repeatedly.
"They will drive them into the ground on occasions, leading to suicides, leading to financial ruin - we have seen all of that in this department. They will bleed these people dry so that they can lead a rock-and-roll lifestyle at their expense."
The NFIB was set up after the then Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith's Fraud Review, commissioned in 2006.
He found that "fraud may be second only to class A drug trafficking as a source of harm from crime; and there is evidence that fraud funds terrorism, drugs and people trafficking".