College students have been left in thousands of pounds of debt and facing criminal investigations after becoming involved in a mobile phone contract scam.
Police have today revealed a fraud which has seen young people sign up for numerous expensive mobile phone deals on the promise they will not be required to fulfill them.
Young people, including at least five students from Preston college, have taken out mobile phone contracts which they hand over to a fraudster, who promises to cancel the contracts.
But instead he ships them abroad to places like India and Pakistan leaving them facing bills for more than £2,000 each, bailifs’ visits and being implicated in an intricate fraud.
It is understood even if the phones are reported stolen and are unable to be used in Britain they can still be used abroad in Far Eastern countries on foreign airtime.
Detectives claim the criminals are travelling from Blackburn to recuit young people in Preston and some are paid a fee for their work, while others may be conned into the belief taking mobile phones would “improve their credit rating.”
Det Sgt John Crichton, of Preston CID, said the fraud had been operating in Preston for many months and first came to light when Preston College students were targeted.
He said: “These are criminals from Blackburn coming across and recruiting students to join.
“They are kids from Preston College and take them to mobile phone shops and get them to take out phones in their names.
“They get good quality phones in their name, perhaps half a dozen of them, and hand them over to the person who has recruited them.
“This guy will say, ‘I will take the phones off you and then cancel the phones contracts so you won’t have to pay the bills’.
“Then they are getting 10 letters through their doors demanding money for mobile phone contracts.”
The first cases were reported to police in April and police said the fraud have been orchestrated by two different Asian men, one who is known as Saj, who travel to the city in a white Audi car.
Police have interviewed a number of people in connection with the fraud but no charges have been brought.
The latest case involved a chef who claimed to have been conned on the promise of a better credit rating to help him get a loan for a car.
The man, from Preston, was put in touch with Saj who promised to cancel the contracts and return the phones, which would improve his credit rating.
Between September 11 and 20 the pair made repeated journeys into Preston city centre and the Trafford Centre in Manchester, to take mobile phone contracts for top-of-the range brands including iPhones.
The chef made a statement to police in which he revealed Saj had organised for him to speak to a ‘credit ratings agent’ on the phone.
DS Crichton said: “It said ‘She took my details and said my credit rating was 22 and I was to get a phone contract, which would boost my credit rating.
“It seemed a simple way to get my credit rating up, as soon as I got phones I gave them over to Saj.
“On one occasion I gave him two phones and he had them in his boot. On the Sunday we drove to the Trafford Centre and this time I got three white iPhones which I handed to Saj.
“Every time I got a phone he rang the woman who told me my credit rating had gone up.
“I honestly believed the credit rating had gone up.”
DS Crichton said phone shops and companies had also been alerted to the scam and today urged anyone who is approached to become involved to get in touch with police.
He said: “The people who are being pursued by bailiffs are those who have been conned into getting the contracts, while these guys are getting off scott free.”