The enemy within
My last post regarding Boiler Rooms generated a great deal more interest than I had imagined it would. I'm grateful for your observations regarding your own experiences and your thanks for the inside knowledge I've provided - which I agree you could have done with earlier. I hope the following provides a cautionary note regarding who has access to your information and how it can be (ab)used.
As previously discussed, fraudsters don't have the time or inclination to spend ringing punters who are unlikely to fall for whatever con they are pedalling at that particular time. In my previous post about 'Boiler Rooms' I described how the 3 main sources of are (1) lists of punters who have already evidenced their appetite for 'get-rich-quick schemes' e.g. timeshare company mailing lists (2) mailing lists from publishing houses whose customers believe that by purchasing a book they can learn how to make a fortune by doing next to nothing and never having to leave the comfort of their living room, (3) Sucker Lists comprising the details of those who have been successfully conned before and can just as easily be conned again. What all three categories of punters have in common is the fact that they have excess cash that they can be persuaded to part with.
I again ran into Paul, the ex-colleague who tried to recruit me to work in the Boiler Room. He worked there himself for about 3 months but got out just before they were raided by a certain national law enforcement agency. After exchanging pleasantries I asked if he would do it again. He confirmed he would, but not with those half-wits. When he told me about the police raid I assumed it was the blasé attitude of the team that had been their downfall - however, I was wrong.
Chris, the guy running this Boiler Room was becoming increasingly frustrated by a lack of results. He had done everything other than physically torture the guys on the phones to 'motivate' them - all to no avail. He decided he needed a few big scores then he would close it all down and find a more profitable scam. He needed to focus on people that he knew for certain had lots of investable savings and who were especially vulnerable due to their age/circumstances/mental health.
Keen to try something different, Chris went to an affluent area on the borders of Essex and London and found the closest pub to the banks on the High Road. When the banks had closed, he saw that staff from a certain bank piled in, still in their smart uniforms. He stayed as long as they did, eventually leaving at just after 8pm and having made a pint of shandy last forever. He made a mental note of who appeared to be leading the conversation and even managed to take a sly photograph on his phone.
He returned on Friday night to find a slightly larger selection of staff with the same guy attempting to hog the limelight. This time Chris approached the table and asked if they were on a works party or a birthday celebration. The loud guy immediately told him that work as a cashier was so incredibly boring they had to do this at least a few nights a week to stay sane. Chris pulled out a £50 note and said that he was coming to the end of a modest lottery win and might as well finish it off in company. He ordered drinks all round, sank his shandy and was invited to join the group. He bought another two rounds and then bid them farewell until the following week.
He met them in the same pub at the same time over the next three weeks, slowly building up a rapport and a better picture of the personalities involved. The loud cashier warmed to him, helped in no small part by his willingness to buy the drinks for the group, and before long they were on first name terms and messaging each other. The Cashier casually mentioned that his wife had the hump with him as he spent too much money on beer and wasn't contributing to their savings pot to put down a deposit on a flat. Chris sympathised with him and told him 'in confidence' that he knows two employees of different banks who regularly double their monthly salary (in cash) without hardly lifting a finger. He said no more but knowing about his financial situation, waited for the cashier to ask a few questions.
Sure enough Chris received a text message the next day asking if he was around for a coffee. They arranged to meet at a local coffee shop and Chris made a point of paying for the coffees and over-priced pastries by peeling off a £50 note from a wad in a bulging wallet. The cashier eagerly asked what these other guys did to double their bank salary; in hushed tones Chris explained that he was not required to steal money or do anything illegal, he just wanted some information that would never be traced back to him. The information Chris required was the name, age, address, email address, telephone number and the total amount of money they had in savings, of four high net-worth individuals who banked at his branch.
They met on their usual drinking spree later that week. The cashier handed over a sheet of paper with the information Chris had asked for, and in return was given £1000 in £20 notes in a white envelope.The next day Chris used this information as the basis for cold calling these wealthy individuals and convincing one of them (who was clearly very confused) to invest £50,000 in collectable watches.
Having now had ‘proof of concept,’ Chris messaged the cashier and asked him if he wanted to make some more cash. The cashier cautiously asked, ‘How much?’ At this point it was clear that it was no longer ‘if’ but ‘when’ more customer details would be divulged. Chris offered him £200 for the details of each high net-worth customer but warned him against forwarding the details of anyone who didn’t have the necessary liquid assets i.e. not tied up in existing bank products. He offered an extra £100, if the customer was elderly, confused, or suffering from the early stages of dementia.
The cashier messaged Chris the following day and asked for £1,800 having spent his lunch break trawling their system for suitable targets. Money and customer details were exchanged and Chris boasted that he already had his eyes on a Porsche at a local dealership. Within a few weeks the cashier had gone on to ‘sub-contact’ to two colleagues in other branches and one in a completely different bank - paying them £50 a time and pocketing the rest himself.
So how did it all go so horribly wrong? The arrangement worked exceedingly well for a few months, in fact it worked so well that Chris bought the Porsche, sacked all but one of the guys making the calls, closed the office and the remaining guy just worked from home from his laptop. Whilst Chris and the remaining member of staff made far fewer calls, their 'hit-rate' was much better. He should have also been a lot safer working with fewer staff and more reliable targets, however, in sacking one particular guy in the office he had created an enemy. By putting an end to the short-lived largesse he had enjoyed as the most generous guy in the pub on a Friday night, he now felt humiliated at being barely able to afford a round before making an excuse before sloping off home. The final straw came when Chris sounded his horn and waved at him and as he cruised down the High Road in his Porsche. In a fit of pique he disabled the 'Caller ID' on his phone and rang Crimestoppers to give them the good news.
Knowledge is power and the information the cashier provided to Chris was priceless. It saved him having to rent premises, employ staff and spend hours on the phone to potential punters who usually hung up on him. By targeting particularly vulnerable customers of the bank, he massively increased their chances of success. Until they were bubbled-up to Crimestoppers, the payoff was huge for Chris, his remaining member of staff and the cashier.
It all came to an end when 2 detectives visited the bank one afternoon. After a short meeting behind a closed door with the Branch Manager they emerged and immediately handcuffed the cashier in front of his colleagues. His desk was searched and virtually everything seized.
In interview, the cashier could not rollover fast enough. He grassed up Chris with times and dates and text messages. Alas, he had paid a major role in a cynical fraud targeting vulnerable customers of the bank, so no amount of cooperation was going to dig him out of it.
Chris, the cashier and the other guy were charged with numerous counts of fraud and conspiracy to defraud. Chris is currently remanded in custody and his Porsche, house, Rolex (genuine but trashy) and the other trappings of wealth are the subject of an application under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. The cashier's wife was so disgusted at what her husband had done she kicked him out and he now lives in a bail hostel, counting down the days to his trial. His legal fees will also include those of his impending divorce.
The bank in question went into overdrive to try and limit the reputational damage caused by the investigation and ensuing publicity. They made a big play of publicising their efforts to crack down on internal corruption and how anyone with concerns can report things confidentially. I've since learned that these 'hotlines' are often referred to as the 'Career Suicide Line' such is the way in which those raising concerns are actually dealt with. Little wonder that these procedures offer no threat to those tempted by the offer of quick and easy money. Perhaps I should tout myself as an independent consultant - at least they wouldn't be frightened to pick up the phone!