Thousands of pounds and designer watches seized in fraud raid in Littleborough

Date published: 06 May 2021

Over 20 designer watches and around £4,000 in cash have been seized in a raid as part of an investment fraud investigation.

Officers from GMP's Economic and Cyber Crime Section executed a warrant on a residential address in Littleborough just before 7am on Wednesday (5 May) in relation to an investigation into complex investment fraud.

The raid is part of Operation Penina, an ongoing investigation into a complex investment type fraud run by sophisticated criminal groups, primarily targeting elderly victims and spanning across the United Kingdom.

Documents have been seized along with 21 designer watches and approximately £4,000 in cash. A 37-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of fraud by false representation and money laundering.

Victims of the fraud had searched online for ISA investments, and following this were contacted and persuaded to transfer money into what they believed was a well-known banking establishment, when really it was into a fraudulent banking product.

Over £150,000 worth of victim's money was transferred into accounts within the Greater Manchester area and laundered into further accounts to benefit influential members of criminal groups. 

A 61-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman have already been arrested in connection with Operation Penina and have been released under investigation pending further enquiries.

Detective Chief Inspector Joseph Harrop, from GMP's Economic and Cyber Crime Section, said: "The raid today has been the culmination of a great team effort, which will continue beyond today. Over a period of months, officers and staff from the Economic and Cyber Crime Section have gathered intelligence and evidence, leading to the activity today where we have been able to continue to enforce, intervene and tackle the issue of investment fraud.

"The methods employed by criminals operating this type of fraud, are very convincing to even the most diligent of victims. They utilise documents, email accounts, telephone numbers and web addresses that upon first appearance seem genuine.

"Today's excellent result will significantly disrupt this kind of fraudulent activity that lines the pockets of organised crime groups, and protect well-meaning people from falling victim to sophisticated scams in the future.

“Covid-19 has affected us all in different ways, for some it has brought financial uncertainty and unfortunately it is this vulnerability that fraudsters will look to exploit.

“Our message to the public is to take your time with your money and personal information and don’t let anyone pressure you into making a rushed decision. Fraudsters are sophisticated and their investment scams will look like genuine investments with professional-looking websites and documents, so always check the Financial Conduct Authority’s ScamSmart warning list first. The @gmpfraud Twitter account also has up-to-date information on scams.

“Anyone who suspects they have been a victim of fraud to report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.”

GMP Scam Awareness: investment scams

Investment fraud is when a fraudsters contacts someone pretending to offer the opportunity to invest in variety of schemes or products with promise of a great return however, these schemes are often worthless or don’t exist at all.

With Covid-19 creating challenges financially for many, GMP is reminding the public stay alert when thinking of parting with their money, and have issued advice on how to spot an investment scam:

  • You’re contacted out of the blue with the investment offer.
  • You’re shown glossy brochures, professional-looking websites and certificates that make them look authentic.
  • You’re pressured into making rushed decisions with no time to consider the nature of the investment.

GMP has also shared information on how to avoid becoming victim:

  • Never take up offers of investments on the spot from cold calls.
  • To make safe investments, take a look at the Financial Conduct Authority’s ScamSmart warning list.
  • Don’t give your bank account details or sensitive information.
  • Fraudsters tend to target people over 65. Talk to elder family members and vulnerable people you care for to make sure they know how to spot bogus investments.

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