Five men have been arrested in connection with an HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigation into cyber attackers suspected of identity theft and tax fraud.
The men are part of a group believed to have stolen personal data from 700 UK citizens to set up false self-assessment accounts with HMRC in an attempt to steal tax rebates worth up £500,000.
At the weekend, police arrested and charged a 35-year-old man from Bologna with cheating HMRC when he landed at Stansted airport.
UK and Italian officials have searched his home in Bologna and seized computers.
Four others were arrested at Stansted, London, and Chatham in Kent.
They have been released on bail, pending further investigation.
Italian police said the men were of Nigerian origin, according to the Guardian.
HMRC investigators contacted Italian police after tracing the fraudulent rebate applications to Italy.
Italian cyber crime police said the man from Bologna had applied for £500,000 in rebates and had collected more than £100,000 since stealing the identity of 700 UK citizens over a year ago.
But HMRC claims that its online systems proved extremely resilient, identifying and preventing most false repayment claims, the paper said.
Andrew Sackey, assistant director of criminal investigation at HMRC said: “These arrests clearly demonstrate that we can, and will, apprehend those suspected of attempting to cheat UK taxpayers by defrauding HMRC, with international assistance if necessary.”
In January, UK fraud prevention service Cifas said the fraudulent use of stolen or fictitious identity details is the biggest fraud threat.
Analysis of fraud trends in 2012 revealed 50% of all frauds identified during the year relate to the impersonation of an innocent victim or the use of completely false identities.
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