Five Arrested in ‘Copycat’ Website Clampdown in the UK

Police in the UK have made a number of arrests in its investigation into cyber-criminals operate copycat government websites.

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Photo: GlebStock / Shutterstock

The fake websites claimed to offer services like tax returns and passport renewals where the cyber-criminals would be able to charge false fees. Five people have been arrested and all are on police bail, according to the National Trading Standards Board (NTSB).

UK newspaper The Sunderland Echo has reported on the arrests of three local men believed to be involved in the scamming ring. Local businessman Stephen Oliver was arrested in suspicion of fraud and false representation and was arrested at his home in June 27.

Two other men, Jamie Wyatt and Michael Hughes were arrested too while the other arrests occurred elsewhere in the UK.

This is not the first time a string of government lookalike sites have cropped up purporting to be official sites, says the NTSB.

NTSB chairman Lord Toby Harris said that it has been working with Google and Bing to remove adverts from online search results. “We continue to gather intelligence across the country to help tackle this issue,” he said.

“We urge you to avoid unofficial websites which could leave you out of pocket or at risk of identity theft. Only use the GOV.UK website to find Government services. If you come across copycat websites, report them to Citizens Advice.”

“It’s great that it’s becoming easier and more common to use the internet to order official documents such as passports or tax discs, but people should be aware of rogue websites that are out there trying to exploit them and take their hard earned cash and even put them at risk of identity theft,” added the UK’s Minister for Consumer Affairs, Jo Swinson.

Have you ever fallen for a copycat government website in the UK or anywhere else? Let us know your experiences below in the comments.