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COVID-19 fraudster jailed for cyber scam

|News, Fraud and economic crime

A COVID-19 text scammer has been jailed for 22 months today (20 August 2021) for using fake digital messages to trick people into providing personal banking details.

Abdisalaam Dahir, 20, previously pleaded guilty to charges of fraud by false representation, possessing articles for use in fraud and money laundering at the Inner London Crown Court.

Based on the average loss to victims of “phishing” fraud and the number of victims’ personal details found in the defendant’s possession, the estimated potential loss was £185,265.76.

Dahir had been sending out bulk text messages to members of the public claiming to be from various well known organisations. The victims were directed to fake websites where they were asked for personal financial information, including their banking details.

Notably, messages that claimed to be from HMRC sought to attract victims to provide personal details via a hook that they may be eligible for a COVID-19 grant, targeting those who may have suffered due to the COVID pandemic.

The police found evidence obtained from phones and a laptop which demonstrated that defendant had been involved in sending bulk SMS messages purporting to be from other organisations including the Royal Mail, Nationwide, HSBC, THREE and EE, asking the receiver to ‘click’ on a weblink within the message in order to provide more details, thereby passing sensitive details which can be used in ongoing fraud, to him. £10,650 in cash was also found under the defendant’s bed.

Dahir was engaged in smishing and phishing frauds. Smishing is when fraudsters obtain personal details of a victim by SMS text messages, while phishing is a method used by fraudsters to access similar valuable personal details, such as usernames and passwords via a fake website.

Alexander White of the CPS said: “ At a time when the country was looking to COVID-19 grants to help the desperate in our society financially survive this pandemic, Dahir was seeking to exploit this by prising vital personal financial information from vulnerable victims.

"Criminals are increasingly using sophisticated on-line methods to try and extract information and money from unsuspecting members of the public. We need to be agile in our response to these phishing and smishing threats and our new Economic Crime Strategy will allow us to adapt and enhance our capability.

“Working closely with experts from the City of London police’s Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit, we have brought a rapid close to Dahir’s fraudulent operation. Hopefully, this sends a message out to other fraudsters and reassures the public that work is underway to prevent it happening."
In the last year the CPS has seen cyber criminals look to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic and that we are conducting our lives more online. In response to this CPS has issued an ambitious Economic Crime Strategy to combat these offences.

Notes to editors

  • Alexander White, is the specialist prosecutor for the CPS Specialist Fraud Division
  • The CPS Economic Crime Strategy is available on our website.
  • The Specialist Fraud Division is a dedicated CPS team playing a leading role in the fight against serious and complex economic crime and the financial exploitation of the public, using specialist legal expertise to deliver justice.
  • Abdisalaam Dahir (DOB:07/02/2001) pleaded  guilty to the counts of fraud by false representation, possessing articles for the use in fraud and money laundering at the Inner London Crown Court and sentenced to 22 months immediate custody.

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