Criminal jailed for over four years for sending Covid-19 grant scam text messages

A man was sentenced on Thursday 10 February 2022 to four years and eight months in prison at Southwark Crown Court after pleading guilty to sending out scam messages related to Covid-19, hacking a private business website, and providing other individuals with software to help them commit fraud offences.

Thomas Proudfoot, 21, of Leatherhead, Surrey, pleaded guilty to computer misuse, money laundering and several counts of fraud following an investigation by the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), a specialist police unit funded by the banking and finance industry.

The DCPCU executed a search warrant of Proudfoot's residence on 4 February 2021 and seized several of his digital devices. Upon examining Proudfoot's laptop, officers found that he was significantly involved in selling to other parties methods to complete smishing and phishing fraud, including possessing copies of fake web pages relating to Covid-19 and other organisations.

In some instances, he sent out scam text messages that offered victims fake Covid-19 grants which contained a link to a fake website. The website asked for the victim's personal and financial details which he used to commit fraud. Proudfoot also designed software which he sold as a service to other fraudsters.

Additionally, whilst the defendant was on court bail awaiting sentencing he committed further fraud offences by continuing to create tools and software for other fraudsters.

He was found to have committed fraud between June 2020 and July 2021 and in addition to his prison sentence received a Criminal Behaviour Order to prevent further fraud offences.

The DCPCU police unit is working closely with the banking and finance industry and telecoms sector to tackle fraud related to Covid-19.

Detective Sergeant Ben Hobbs at the DCPCU said:

By working closely with mobile phone companies and the banking and finance industry, we were able to identify Proudfoot and bring this criminal to justice.

This sentencing is a warning to those who believe they can benefit financially from fraud that they will be caught and punished. The DCPCU will continue to clamp down on the criminal gangs seeking to use the pandemic to defraud people.

Criminals are experts at impersonating trusted organisations like the government, banks and NHS, and will try to play on people's concerns about their finances at this difficult time. It's therefore vital that the public follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and stop and think before parting with any money or information in case it's a scam.

Customers can report suspected scam texts to their mobile network provider by forwarding them to 7726. This will help mobile providers to take action if needed, including blocking malicious numbers. Additionally, any suspicious emails should be forwarded to report@phishing.gov.uk, the National Cyber Security Centre's (NCSC) suspicious email reporting service. If you?ve provided your personal details, or lost money to a fraud, please report to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040

Area of expertise:

Notes to editor

  1. The Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU) is a unique pro-active police unit, with a national remit, formed as a partnership between UK Finance, the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police together with the Home Office. It is fully funded by the banking and finance industry, with an ongoing brief to investigate and arrest criminals responsible for card, cheque and payment fraud crimes. It is headed up by a Detective Chief Inspector and comprises officers from the Metropolitan and City of London police forces who work alongside banking and finance industry fraud investigators and support teams.
  2. Please contact the UK Finance press office for an image of Thomas Proudfoot.
  3. Customers can report suspected scam texts to their mobile network provider by forwarding them to 7726, which is free of charge. This will help mobile providers take action, if need be, to block malicious numbers.
  4. For more advice on staying safe from Covid-19 related fraud and scams, visit the Take Five to Stop Fraud website.
  • STOP: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
  • CHALLENGE: Could it be fake? It?s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

PROTECT: Contact your bank immediately if you think you?ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.

Criminal jailed for over four years for sending Covid-19 grant scam text messages

11.02.22

Press release