A prolific cyber criminal who used encrypted social media platform Telegram in a series of long-running frauds has been sentenced at Croydon Crown Court to three years in prison for fraud by false representation, supply of articles for use in fraud and possession of articles for use in fraud.
Ramzan Abubakarov, aged 21, of Hendon in North London, had pled not guilty to all charges but was found guilty of 10 offences on 9 December 2022.
He used various online guises to coordinate fraudulent activities on his Telegram channel, which at one time was one of the largest channels in the UK – where Telegram is a relatively minor player compared with some other platforms.
Abubakarov was responsible for creating the iChop.it cyber crime web service, in essence a platform for buying and selling compromised personal and financial data.
Through his sale of hacking tools to other cyber criminals, Abubakarov is thought to be ultimately responsible for losses of more than £1.9m.
He also engaged in various frauds himself, including submitting fake tax return claims to HMRC, applying for the government’s Bounce Back Covid loan scheme, and hacking into personal bank accounts.
Metropolitan Police cyber crime lead, detective superintendent Helen Rance, said: “Taking away the tools and systems that enable criminals to exploit and target innocent people is a great challenge to us and our partners, however, we are dedicated to bringing these criminals to justice. We are reinventing the way that fraud and cyber crime is investigated, and through this we are able to identify and target criminals and safeguard further victims.”
Abubakarov’s activities came to light after he was identified as being behind the various frauds by the Cyber Defence Alliance (CDA), a UK-based group of banks and law enforcement agencies that work together on such issues. This information was then passed to the Met’s cyber crime team, which tracked him down through proactive policing cryptocurrency track and trace, communications data analysis, and partner work with banks and HMRC.
When arrested in November 2021, police found and seized a number of laptop computers and smartphones from Abubakarov’s home address, analysis of which led to the discovery of compromised personal and financial data on more than 30,000 victims, custom phishing kits designed to exploit various retail banks, and over a million UK and international mobile numbers.
Detective constable Oyedeji, who led the investigation, said: “The success of this investigation is as a result of effective collaborative working relationships with our partners, especially the CDA. It’s rewarding for my team and I knowing that we managed to safeguard thousands of victims from cyber criminals.”
The successful conviction of Abubakarov is the latest victory for the Metropolitan Police in its fight against digitally enabled fraud.
In November 2022, it played a key role in a multinational takedown of iSpoof.cc, an underground website that sold call spoofing services enabling cyber criminals to impersonate trusted organisations, such as banks, when targeting victims.
Besides arresting the site’s London-based administrator, the police were also able to extract more than 70 million lines of data and cryptocurrency payment records from the site server, which they used to track down and arrest more than 100 UK-based service users, all of whom had spent at least £100 worth of iSpoof.cc services.