The Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (DCPCU) has dismantled what is believed to be one of the UK’s biggest counterfeit cheque crime groups.
It follows a major operation in Yorkshire and Scotland.Last Wednesday and Thursday morning (October 17 and 18) in excess of 60 officers from the DCPCU, City of London Police and West Yorkshire Police arrested five men and two women.
Around 100 chequebooks were seized, each containing up to 50 cheques, with the potential to yield in excess of £5 million worth of fraud.
Numerous printers and printing materials that could be used to forge cheques, and a sizeable quantity of crack cocaine and heroin, were also found in 22 addresses and a vehicle that were searched.
Detectives have been investigating a counterfeiting network for months and suspect they could have been making up to £50,000 a week using counterfeit cheques, potentially netting up to £10 million in total. Cheque usage has gone down in recent years but there are still over 2.7 million cheque transactions a day. Although the most recent figures show that cheque fraud is rising, more than 90% of all fraudulent cheques are detected as they go through the cheque clearing process.
Organised crime gangs continue to steal customer cheques to use as templates, and are also targeting company chequebooks. But they are now purchasing higher quality printers, paper and ink from the internet to produce counterfeit cheques that are much more difficult to detect. This, combined with many people no longer being familiar with cheque security, is creating increasingly fertile ground for fraudsters.
The Head of DCPCU, DCI Dave Carter, said:
“A decline in counterfeit cheque fraud ironically left a chink in the door, with criminals now combining old techniques with the specialist purchasing powers of the internet to really cash-in on a general lack of public awareness of cheque security. But these arrests send out a strong message across the UK to members of the public and criminals. The DCPCU is alive to the threat of counterfeit cheques, we take it very seriously, and will travel far and wide in pursuit of those we believe are responsible.”
The DCPCU, which is a specialist police unit sponsored by the banks to investigate serious and organised payment fraud, is working with the industry to stamp out organised card and cheque fraud across the UK. The unit comprises officers from the City of London and Metropolitan police forces working alongside bank investigators and case support staff.
The Commissioner of the City of London Police, Adrian Leppard, said:
“This operation emphasises the importance of UK police forces coming together to tackle fraud and fight the common enemy that is organised crime. It also shows how private sector – policing partnerships continue to make a significant contribution to the national police response to economic crime.
“Looking forwards these established alliances and privately funded specialist police units will become key components in the new National Crime Agency’s Economic Crime Command, which becomes fully operational in autumn 2013.”
The five men, three aged 32, and one 33 and 30, and the two women, 31 and 29 were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud. They were questioned in West Yorkshire police stations and later released on bail.