Dark web crooks scamming Chancellor’s £40bn loans scheme

Fears are rising that crooks are set to launch a second wave of fraud on Rishi Sunak’s £40billion bounce-back loans scheme. 

The Mail on Sunday has seen posts on the dark web in which fraudsters are conspiring to trick banks into handing them emergency cash that is designed to keep firms afloat. 

Criminals are using hidden forums to recruit ‘money mules’ to apply for up to £50,000 from the banks involved in the Chancellor’s Covid-19 support scheme. In exchange, they offer to split the proceeds with the mules. 

Concern: Criminals are using hidden forums to recruit ‘money mules’ to apply for up to £50,000 from the banks involved in the Chancellor’s Covid-19 support scheme

The MoS also understands banks expect the Treasury to ask them to offer bounce-back loans to new customers – as well as existing business account-holders – after the scheme was last week extended until the end of January. Banks say this could make it easier for crooks to beat fraud checks. 

One bank said it believes a diktat from the Government ‘is coming’. 

Banks were told earlier this year to offer bounce-back loans to new customers. But of the big banks only HSBC and Barclays did so. 

Banks have so far rejected £1.1billion of loans suspected to be fraudulent. But the National Audit Office has warned that £26billion of bounce-back loans may never be paid back, either due to businesses failing or fraud. The taxpayer would ultimately pick up the bill. 

The dark web is part of the internet that is invisible to search engines such as Google. 

Posts, seen by thousands of people, show that fraudsters are targeting banks including NatWest, Barclays, Metro Bank and Tide. One post asked ‘serious people’ to provide details for NatWest personal bank accounts set up before March 2020. 

Dark web experts at Cyberint, who discovered the posts, said scammers had also stolen bank account details to commit fraud. 

NatWest, Barclays, Tide and Metro Bank all said they had robust protections against fraud.

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