UK leads world in ticket fraud websites, says Met Police

Metropolitan Police officers are monitoring about 1,000 British residents who have run fake websites as part of moves to protect the Olympic Games

Metropolitan Police officers are monitoring about 1,000 British residents who have run fake websites to ensure that the Olympic Games economy is protected and that the London 2012 event is an "extremely hostile environment" for criminals.

Detective chief inspector Nick Downing, head of Operation Podium, the Met's 36-person Olympic economic crime unit, said a specialist e-crime unit was monitoring fake ticket and other websites in the UK and overseas to understand and disrupt their business models.

Downing said the UK appeared to lead the world in fraudulent ticket websites, but that didn't mean foreign organised crime would not join it. He said the unit had taken down some websites and arrested some people in that connection.

Most of the people the unit is watching have previously offered fraudulent tickets for the football World Cup in South Africa, the Vancouver winter Olympics, football and rugby matches, and music concerts.

"It's an export we are not very proud of," said Downing. "It does seem that our British organised ticketing networks are the main ones out there at the moment."

Operation Podium is working with international partners, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), the Met's Police e-Crime Unit (PeCU) and Nominet, the .uk domain name registrar, to ensure criminal websites are removed from the internet.

Downing said Soca-inspired talks were ongoing to change Nominet's terms and conditions and make it easier to take down websites.

The unit has been working with banks, payment services, retailers and the hospitality industry since June 2010 to identify and mitigate threats.

"It's not always about arrests, but also about disrupting their business model," said Downing at a London briefing on Friday. The last thing he wanted was for any of the potential nine million visitors to remember the London Olympics because they had bought fake tickets or their hotel was unavailable because they had booked via a fake site.

Downing urged the public to go only to the official London Olympics website to register in the 40-day ballot for the 8.8 million tickets that go on sale on 15 March.

He said there were a number of websites with similar names that offered to register people for tickets. These threatened to steal personal details, such as names and credit card numbers, that could be sold to other criminals to buy goods on the account. Downing declined to say if he planned a swoop once genuine tickets went on sale.

He said there was no evidence so far that the fake websites also hosted malware such as Trojans, which could infest an unwary user's terminal and steal their personal details or co-opt them into botnets.

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