Cheap deals with a hidden high price.
The Fraud Barometer recorded an emerging trend of consumers carrying out tech-enabled theft, driven by a hunger to maintain a comfortable lifestyle on a low key budget. Several cases this year involve consumers searching out goods and services on the internet that may have raised the eyebrows of the more conscientious consumer. The bootleg bargains show customers unaware of or uncaring about the risk of conspiring with the online fraudsters in order to get their hands on goods for a fraction of the high street price.
In one case a 51 year old Leicester man was jailed for six years for masterminding a £60 million fraud to supply free cable TV using illicit set-top boxes. Working with five accomplices, he imported boxes from Asia and bypassed the encryption in order to allow people to watch a cable TV service without a legitimate subscription. He promoted the business on internet forums and via his own website, as well as making bulk sales of the boxes all around the UK. In another case a father and son were jailed for a £3 million scam selling cheap teeth whitening kits that were dangerous and left some users with bleeding gums from chemical burns. Advertising banners claimed the product was 'ideal for any age group' and was 'used by leading dentists throughout the UK and Europe' however they contained up to 110 times the allowable level of hydrogen peroxide.
“Through the rapid rise of technology and online platforms, more people than ever are being targeted by fraudsters who have unrestricted access to a larger pool of victims. However, we are also seeing the internet being used by consumers who are being tempted to obtain goods and services that they have, or perhaps should have, a fair idea are not legitimate. Consumers may often turn a blind eye, or consider this a victimless crime, but these cases show individual victims who ended up paying a high price with their wellbeing. In addition, this shadow economy activity, which directly promotes money laundering and tax evasion, often help funds other more serious organised criminal enterprises, including human trafficking, drug smuggling and terrorism.”
Hitesh N Patel, UK Forensic Partner at KPMG