TWO women from Somerset are among six innocent people who had a total of nearly £8 million stolen from them by falling victim to a high-profile fraud and money laundering scam.

On Wednesday, February 21, eight people were arrested after being suspected of being part of an organised crime group which posed as representatives from financial authorities to convince victims their savings were at risk.

A 73-year-old woman from Somerset had £526,000 stolen, and another Somerset woman lost £500,000.

Teams from the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SWROCU), supported by Police Scotland and the National Crime Agency (NCA), carried out eleven warrants in Glasgow and Edinburgh - as well as arresting five men and three women, officers seized approximately £300k cash, a BMW car, and around 100 devices. 

The criminals used 'spoofed' telephone numbers and email addresses, to cruelly convince their victims over weeks and months to move substantial amounts of money into cryptocurrency accounts.

The largest amount stolen from a single victim was £4.1 million.

The seizing and arrests were supported by Operation Henhouse, a National Economic Crime Centre initiative to provide funding to allow forces to undertake additional operational activity against fraudsters.

Acting Detective Inspector Adrian Bray from SWROCU said: “Yesterday’s arrests are a significant step forward in an investigation that has seen substantial amounts of money stolen from six victims.

“With the help of our digital forensics specialists, we are now working to gather as much evidence as possible from the devices seized from the suspects’ addresses.

“The money stolen ranges from over £4 million from one victim... to £50k from a victim in Edinburgh, so it’s a high value fraud by criminals who were adept at gaining the trust of their victims.

“No-one should underestimate the harmful impact fraud has on victims, regardless of the value of money stolen.

"That’s why it’s so important people take the time to report suspicious emails, phone calls and texts they receive, instead of just blocking or deleting them.

"Even if you are confident you know the warning signs of fraud, others might not.

"By taking a moment to flag the communication as suspicious, you are helping to protect others.”