A high-flying student who masterminded a ‘sickening’ coronavirus swindle against the most vulnerable members of the public was today jailed for 30 weeks.
Mohammed Khan, 20, sent thousands of fraudulent texts and emails inviting unwitting victims to fill in their bank details in exchange for ‘a Covid-19 tax break’.
The messages were carefully modelled on official UK government communications to make them look genuine.
Mohammed Khan, 20, sent thousands of fraudulent texts and emails inviting unwitting victims to fill in their bank details in exchange for ‘a Covid-19 tax break’
The messages were carefully modelled on official UK government texts to make them look genuine
The victim’s personal information was stolen by the ‘clearly very clever’ Queen Mary politics student ‘with a view to committing fraud against their bank accounts’.
Khan also passed the information along with templates for fraudulent websites to other scammers via WhatsApp, Inner London Crown Court heard.
He had been operating a number of sophisticated scams since 2017 but began to exploit the crisis the day before lockdown came into effect on March 22.
Khan, who lives with his parents and two siblings, was arrested at his home in Camden, northwest London, on May 13.
Malachy Pakenham, prosecuting, said: ‘The dedicated card payment unit of London police commenced an investigation into fraudulent texts received by victims purporting to be from government sites promising tax refunds due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
‘It’s a phishing campaign to dupe customers to enter their personal details and passwords by sending a fraudulent website link. It gets them to enter their bank details on a fake website set up by the defendant.
How to avoid falling victim to a coronavirus-related scam
If you receive an email, text or WhatsApp message purporting to be from the government, HMRC, the World Health Organisation (WHO) or a coronavirus-related charity, then take a moment to think before you part with your money or information.
Never click on links or download attachments as criminals may infect your devices with malware or ask you to enter your personal or financial information into fake websites. In some cases this can lead to your identity being stolen.
If you believe you have identified a scam, or fallen victim to one, then contact your bank or Action Fraud.
Source: UK Finance
‘The information is captured and transferred by email to the defendant. This allows the defendant to harvest personal information with a view to committing frauds against their bank accounts.’
Kevin Molloy, defending Khan, earlier told the court: ‘This is not somebody in some boiler room with screens everywhere. He lives in a two-bedroom flat and he looks after his sick 10 year old brother every night.
‘He has incredible GCSE and A Level results, he’s heading for a first while living in abject poverty in two rooms. He wasn’t doing it to get himself an expensive pair or trainers or spend it on a girlfriend.
‘He got AAB at A level. He’s at Queen Mary University reading Politics and International Relations. He lives at home with his sister and mother in one room and him and his brother in another. The father sleeps in the living room.’
When Khan admitted two fraud charges at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in May, District Judge Alexander Jacobs said: ‘He was sending text messages to people saying they are entitled to a refund of tax.
‘The police investigation indicates this defendant distributed fraudulent websites and templates to other fraudsters and co-conspirators.
‘He’s in control of the files, enabling him to receive the duped victim’ harvested details. It’s a main role he’s playing in this.
‘There were messages showing he was passing banking details on to somebody via WhatsApp.
The judge told Khan: ‘What you did was to prey on the vulnerability of the majority of people in society who at this present moment are worried, petrified, fearful about their future, about their jobs, about their homes, making ends meet, getting back to work or whether they still have a job.
‘Sometimes this is coupled with having to deal with serious illnesses of themselves or of their family and very many having to deal with bereavement.
‘Along you come, preying on those people, on anyone who might be gullible enough, and there are people sadly who would click on these scams including the elderly and others who are vulnerable because of the circumstances we find ourselves in right now.’
The victim’s personal information was stolen by the ‘clearly very clever’ Queen Mary(pictured) politics student ‘with a view to committing fraud against their bank accounts’
Khan, of St Marys Flats, Camden, admitted one count of fraud by false representation and one count of possessing an article for use in fraud.
He was jailed for 30 weeks concurrent for each offence.
DCI Gary Robinson, (Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU) head of unit, said:
‘Mr Khan thought he could get away with committing fraud by exploiting the Covid-19 crisis to callously send out fraudulent messages to innocent people.
‘Through this investigation, we were able to recover a large number of account details, helping to prevent customers from falling victim to fraud and bring this criminal to justice.’