A South Lincolnshire schoolboy who set up a fake website to harvest the details of dozens of victims amassed a fortune from his crimes, a court was told today.
The boy, operating from his bedroom, used the first few weeks of lockdown and his ill-gotten gains to buy Bitcoins and other crypto currency which subsequently soared in value.
By the time the police caught up with him the crypto currency he bought had increased in value to over £2 million.
Sam Skinner, prosecuting, told Lincoln Crown Court that in April 2020 the boy set up a fake site which was almost identical to the official site of Love2Shop which sells gift vouchers.
He then paid for Google advertising which resulted in his fake site appearing above the genuine site when people searched for Love2Shop.
“People were duped into clicking on his website thinking they were accessing the official site.”
The victims entered their email addresses and Love2Shop account details on to the fake site before being transferred to the genuine site.
The boy used the data he gathered to convert £6,500 worth of vouchers to his own Love2Shop account.
He took his fake site down after a week just as Love2Shop began investigating him following a complaint from a customer.
The subsequent police investigation revealed he had over 12,000 credit card numbers stored on his computer and he had 197 PayPal accounts.
Mr Skinner said: “He had received through his PayPal accounts between January and March 2020 a total of £323,000. These sums came into his account and were transferred into crypto currency.
“The police found a large quantity of crypto currency. There were 48 Bitcoins and a smaller number of other coins. At the time they were worth £200,000. They are now worth a little over £2 million.”
The boy, who is now 17 and studying for his A levels, admitted charges of money laundering between April 9 and 16, 2020 and fraud totalling £6,539 by false representation between the same dates. An order was made prohibiting publication of his name.
He was given a 12 month youth rehabilitation order to include a supervision requirement and 150 hours of unpaid work.
Judge Catarina Sjolin Knight ruled that he benefited from his crimes by £2,141,720 and ordered that amount to be confiscated from his assets.
The Judge said “If he was an adult he would be going inside.”
She told the boy: “You have a long-standing interest in computers. Unfortunately, you used your skills to commit a sophisticated fraud.”
Nicola Hornby, in mitigation, said the boy had no previous convictions and has stayed out of trouble since his arrest.
She described him as “a very capable young man” who has matured in the 18 months since he committed the offences and is now concentrating on his A levels.
Detective Constable Luke Casey, Cyber Crime Investigator at Lincolnshire Police, said: “This was a sophisticated cyber fraud and a complex investigation which involved our Cyber Crime Unit working collaboratively with a number of external agencies and other internal departments. I would like to give thanks to all involved for their hard work, commitment and dedication in helping to bring about a positive outcome for this case.
“Action Fraud and Crimestoppers played a part in the early identification of the offences as well as the suspect, and their involvement enabled us to begin a full and immediate investigation into this crime. This highlights their importance in the area of crime reporting and shows that reports made to Action Fraud and Crimestoppers are taken seriously and are passed onto the police to review and investigate.
“Cryptocurrency is often thought, by criminals, to be an anonymous way to move funds around undetected but I’m glad that in this case, we were able to highlight that the police are now able to effectively investigate offences of this nature.
“It’s no secret that the tactics used by cyber criminals are becoming more sophisticated, but through our commitment to training and development in digital investigation, this case has also shown that we are prepared and able to adapt to the ever-changing and complex nature of cybercrime.”