View more on these topics

Media Spotlight: BBC 1 ‘You’ve been scammed’

MS Spotlight 17 Dec

The BBC dedicated a segment of its fraud awareness programme ‘You’ve Been Scammed’ last week what it described as a “truly audacious scam” whereby two fraudsters attempted to dupe bridging finance company Masthaven into handing over £1.5m.

In March 2010, an independent mortgage broker contacted bridging lender Masthaven, claiming to represent two wealthy Middle-Eastern brothers who were looking to take out the loan on a luxury flat in Bayswater.

The pair provided both proof of ownership for the property and passports verifying their given identities. Masthaven were even able to carry out a valuation on the property without suspicions being raised.

The scammers stumbled when they ran into an unexpected policy of Masthaven where clients who are asking to borrow over £1m are required to come into the offices for a face-to-face meeting.

Shortly after hearing of this policy, the broker informed Masthaven that they would only need to borrow £925,000 after all.

Suspicions suitably raised, Masthaven managing director Andrew Bloom checked the paperwork the pair had submitted, discovered discrepancies on the utility bills and decided to forward the information onto the City of London Police’s fraud department.

Fraud investigator DC Lizzie Roberts explained how quickly the details of the seemingly legitimate scheme fell apart after the police placed the men under careful scrutiny.

The passport used to verify proof of address was found to have been that of a dead child, altered to include a falsified address. What may have surprised people perhaps less familiar with the industry was the ease with which they managed to obtain the title deeds to the house while the owners were living in Dubai, blissfully unaware.

DC Roberts explained that anyone can apply for any title deeds anywhere in the UK and that some later research revealed the scammer had applied twice that year, once in January and once again in February.

Probably the most audacious part of the whole affair was how the scammers managed to get a valuer to come in without raising suspicions. Since the house was on the market, the fraudsters simply invited the valuer to come on the same day they had arranged a viewing.

When (quite reasonably) the person showing them around asked why there was a man with a tape measure inspecting the property, they explained they represented an Arab princess who was keen to get measurements for furniture.

With the scam laid bare, the police were faced with realisation they had no idea how to find the scammers. A sting operation was put into place involving 10 undercover police and the Marriott Hotel where Bloom pretended the deal would go ahead.

After the two men showed up in slightly unconvincing Arab dress, complete with “tea towels on their heads”, according to presenter Matt Allwright, the arrests were made.

Four men were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud and false representation and handed a total of 10 and a half years. One of the men, Shakil Ahmed, was sentenced to three years in absence after he failed to turn up for the court date. He has never been found.

As TV shows go it was certainly stimulating. But some of the details about how easy it was for the perpetrators to set up the fraud were simply staggering. If nothing else surely the moral of the story is that with things like title deeds more needs to be done to ensure fraudsters cannot take advantage.



CML predicts gross lending of £156bn for 2013

The Council of Mortgage Lenders says gross lending in 2012 has passed expectations and the year is now expected to end on £144bn, with £156bn predicted for 2013.

RBS Branch 480

RBS set for £350m Libor fine

Royal Bank of Scotland is set for a £350m fine for its role in the Libor rate-rigging scandal.

Hinckley & Rugby launches 3.25% two-year fix

Hinckley & Rugby Building Society has launched a two-year fixed rate mortgage at an initial rate of 3.25 per cent, available at up to 80 per cent LTV.

Jon King MS blog

Connecting with clients is vital

The recent news from Tesco that its in store publication, imaginately named Tesco Magazine has a confirmed distribution larger than the biggest selling red top tabloid in the UK , did not make front page news but certainly for me marks a watershed. Is it a reflection of peoples reluctance to pay for publications or […]

Qatar cover image - thumbnail

White paper — Qatar International Insights

Jelf Employee Benefits highlights new legislation, key requirements and policy considerations when structuring international private medical insurance (IPMI) for expatriate employees in Qatar. This edition will be of particular interest to global human resource directors, compensation and benefits specialists and mobility managers who have employee populations in Qatar.


News and expert analysis straight to your inbox

Sign up
  • Post a comment
  • Tex 17th December 2012 at 5:14 am

    Another scam everyone should be aware of is the Amway Tool Scam. Google stoptheamwaytoolscam for more information, and forward this to every non-IBO you know, so they don’t get scammed.