Criminals are running ‘scam schools’ on the internet, teaching budding swindlers how to steal bank details and use them to splurge on major retailers’ goods.
Conmen sell detailed step-by-step guides — one named the ‘Fraud Bible’ — and individual online tutorials to help new scammers cash in on the multimillion-pound black market trade, an undercover Mail investigation has found.
Students learn how to send spam text messages, purporting to be from companies such as the Royal Mail and PayPal, which link to fake bank websites.
The aim is to trick targets into handing over their account and card information and other personal details.
Swag brag: Swindlers use images of wads of cash like these to advertise their lessons
They are taught to use the plundered financial details to buy goods online from retailers including John Lewis, Harvey Nichols, PrettyLittleThing and Selfridges.
These goods are usually then sold on via eBay or other internet marketplaces — meaning many consumers buying from these sites will unwittingly be purchasing goods bought with stolen funds.
Our investigation also revealed:
- Scam schools sell ‘how to’ guides for Universal Credit fraud, fuelling a benefits fraud epidemic costing taxpayers billions of pounds a year.
- The fraudsters openly boast about their crimes on social media, showing off about making £5,000 a day and posting videos of themselves with luxury goods bought using the stolen money.
- They also teach customers how to use stolen bank details to take out £5,000 loans charged to the victim, and how to move money from victims’ accounts to cryptocurrency accounts, which the crook can then make off with.
Online credit card fraud, which is worth almost half a billion pounds a year, is fuelled by a commodity that scammers call ‘fullz’, which includes a victim’s credit card number, full name, address, phone number, date of birth, bank account number and sort code.
Fullz and other details such as national insurance and driving licence numbers are openly traded on messaging service Telegram, in groups with names including Legal Fraudsters, Fraud Boys, Frauding UK and GB Only Fraudsters, which have thousands of members.
These criminal marketplaces are also used by scammers who make additional profit by teaching others to learn the tricks of their illicit trade — for a price.
For £205, paid via Bitcoin, one fraudster who advertised lessons in these groups provided us with the software to create real-looking spam phishing text messages.
These linked to fake web pages for banks and payment companies, and are used to trick victims into passing over their personal and banking details.
He said he would teach us to use these texts in a three-day crash course. In a call he explained: ‘If I should send you a text when I’m spamming, it’s going to feel legitimate. It will show you HSBC or Barclays, for example.’
He said this was the technique used in the fake PayPal and Royal Mail scam text messages which exploded during lockdown.
‘Have you received a spam message recently? [The software] will make it look real.’
He sent a list of more than 50 mobile phone numbers he planned to target as a demonstration during the tutorials, explaining: ‘We are going to spam as much as we can bro. Don’t worry bro.’ The reporter ended the communication before a full lesson began.
Other scammers-turned-teachers explain how to use these stolen bank details to buy from major retailers without getting caught by fraud checks, in a technique known as ‘clicking’.
Designer goods: Fraudsters post videos of themselves with luxury goods bought using the stolen money
One fraudster, who calls himself tee.clickz and rocket20, has a video on TikTok advertising: ‘lessons, fullz, bins and methods’. His TikTok biography says: ‘Never work a 9-5 again.’
For £200 he offers a dossier which he called the ‘Fraud Bible’, with techniques to defraud 20 brands, detailing tried and tested tips such as which type of card and delivery option to use, and the maximum cost of purchase that can be made with each retailer without raising the alarm.
It claims to have methods to be used on a range of major stores including Givenchy, John Lewis, End, Louis Vuitton and Farfetch.
The advice includes: ‘Once shipped, repeat on the same card to rinse or use a different card.
From here just sell the items on eBay or any designer-based market app.’ It warns that retailers often text or call buyers as part of fraud checks, ‘so be sure the phone number you enter during checkout is one you control’.
The Fraud Bible also features ‘refund’ scams with methods of claiming cashback from major retailers. These include standard email formats expressing faux outrage that an ordered item did not arrive and demanding that ‘something is done immediately in order to rectify this situation’.
How cruel delivery text scam cost me all of my life savings
Text scam: Actress Emmeline Hartley
Actress Emmeline Hartley described her horror at being ‘scammed out of every penny I had’ after falling for a fake Royal Mail text.
The 28-year-old from Birmingham, was duped by the message which claimed she owed a £2.99 ‘postage fee’ for a package to be delivered.
She clicked on the link in the text which led to a website that mimicked the real Royal Mail page, and submitted her bank details.
The next day, a man pretending to be from her bank phoned and said they had identified suspicious activity on her account — and convinced her to transfer all her cash to another account to ‘protect’ it.
Emmeline says: ‘I grew up with the internet and consider myself to be pretty tech-savvy.
‘But the reality is that anyone can get caught out if the scammers get them at a vulnerable moment.
‘In my case, the text came through when I was rushing to meet a friend with my phone on two per cent, so I wasn’t thinking clearly.
‘The text said that I had to pay an additional postage fee because someone had sent me a parcel, which seemed plausible as my birthday was coming up.
‘When I clicked the link, the site was identical to the Royal Mail one — they’d even set up redirects so the URLs looked right on the pages I checked.’
The following day, the fake bank representative called to make false claims about suspicious payments.
Emmeline says: ‘I said that the transactions weren’t authorised by me, and they asked if I could think of a time when someone could have got my details. I then recalled the text.
‘From then on I was at their mercy — when someone tells you your money is at risk, all you care about is keeping it safe.
‘I wasn’t thinking clearly and he convinced me to transfer all the money to a different account.
‘We went through all the security steps — even the number he called from matched the one on my bank website.’
Emmeline transferred £1,000 — her entire savings — but realised it was a scam when they also tried to get her to move her overdraft.
She says: ‘They’re master manipulators and know exactly how to prey on your panic, so teaching people how to do it is horrible.
‘The people who sell these scam lessons are lower than low.
‘I really think more needs to be done by social media platforms because at the moment it seems to be far too easy to sell these scams online.’
The British Retail Consortium said retailers spent £160 million on cyber security in 2019/20, the most recent figures available.
The lessons also included a guide for ‘noobies’, or new scammers, explaining in simple language how the frauds are carried out, alongside a glossary of the terms.
Scammers also apply for and pocket payday loans using the details of a victim who has a ‘good credit score’.
They put the cash onto a virtual prepaid bank card, which has fewer checks and does not require facial recognition.
The Fraud Bible explains: ‘When applying for the virtual card, fill in the victim’s accurate information including their address etc.
‘Once approved you will have access to your virtual card right away. You can now apply for loans and get them deposited into your virtual bank account.’
Also included is a guide to a ‘Universal Credit Method’ for benefits fraud, which advises: ‘Don’t ever pick up the phone calls like a dweeb!’. Instead ‘chill and chat’ through the Universal Credit online messaging system.
Other tips to ‘stay safe’ when ‘clicking’ — also posted on the TikTok page — are: only using public wifi such as Starbucks’, having a separate burner phone or laptop, regularly switching sim cards and deleting your cookies and cache before ‘clicking’.
He advises selling the stolen goods on eBay, but advertises his swag on his TikTok page, which has videos of a Gucci pouch which he ordered from Flannels and then sold for £200 — less than a third of its retail cost. When asked why they are so cheap, he replies, with a laughing emoji, ‘I click them. Basically getting them for free’.
And he advertises his scam school with images of luxury items including Nike trainers, Louis Vuitton bags and Gucci pouches, in an advert saying: ‘Wanna start clicking?’ It adds: ‘Message for Fraud Bible 100+ methods.’
Scam artist tee.clickz – who has millions of followers – has a video on TikTok advertising: ‘lessons, fullz, bins and methods’. His TikTok biography says: ‘Never work a 9-5 again’
On TikTok he also posted a video of a day in the life of a ‘clicker’, featuring the fraudster collecting wedges of cash from banks and showing off a Rolex watch, eating in high-end restaurants and apparently emptying a victim’s online bank account.
The soundtrack to the video is a rap entitled London Scammer, with the lyrics: ‘I see it, I want it, I click it.’
For £20 he later provided online tutoring, in which he answered our questions about the scam.
When asked where to get ‘fullz’, he directed us to a second scammer who offered to sell us seven hacked full card, bank and personal details of UK victims for £150. We declined.
A spokesman for banking trade body UK Finance says: ‘Customers are legally protected against losses caused by unauthorised card fraud and the industry is taking action on all fronts to stop fraud from happening.
Banks constantly monitor for suspicious transactions and are introducing an extra layer of authentication for online payments to keep customers safe from fraud.’
An eBay spokesman says: ‘We do not allow stolen property to be sold on eBay.
‘We have dedicated teams who work closely with law enforcement to prevent and disrupt illegal activity and investigate sellers who may be in breach of this policy, so that the appropriate action can be taken.’
TikTok removed the videos after it was alerted by the Mail. A spokesman says: ‘The safety and wellbeing of our community is a top priority. Our guidelines make clear that we do not allow content that promotes or enables criminal activities. Through a combination of technology and human moderation we remove content that breaches these guidelines.’
What you can learn to protect yourself
- Be wary of text messages requesting payments or asking for personal information. They may appear to come from legitimate firms such as Royal Mail or DHL but could be from scammers trying to steal your details for a further scam.
- Make sure you have unique passwords for your online accounts. If you use the same one for all and a password is leaked, fraudsters can run it through software to check where else it has been used and access your other accounts. You can check if your email or phone number has been breached using haveibeenpwned.com.
- If you receive a text from your bank about a suspicious payment, call the number on the back of your card rather than responding to the message. You can report suspicious texts for free by forwarding them to 7726, which spells out ‘spam’ on a mobile keypad.
- Your bank will never ask you to move money into a ‘safe account’. If you receive a call from its fraud department asking you to do this, hang up and ring the number on the back of your card — ideally on another phone. You can also find the correct number on your statements or the bank’s website.
- If you notice odd payments on your account, report them to your bank immediately. Transactions made without your permission must be refunded unless you have been grossly negligent with your details. If it refuses, you can challenge this.
- If you are pestered by fraud attempts, make sure you report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or at actionfraud.police.uk. This will help put a stop to fraudulent operations. Those in Scotland should call Police Scotland via 101 or Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000.