3rd December 2015
Wonga is a company that frequently hits the headlines and November was no different. Fraudsters used stolen details of thousands of people to con the payday loan lender out of 3 million pounds. The fraudulent gang managed to make over 19,000 applications through Wonga which the company failed to pick up on. The criminal gang had the money from these applications transferred into bank accounts that they were in control of. They were able to do this by manipulating Wonga’s faulty algorithms on their website. It is a shock that these applications were not spotted, especially as all of the applications were made using the same password according to court reports.
It is suspected that the fraudulent gang bought a list of ‘ready-made’ identities which included the full names, addresses, bank details and personal contact numbers of the unsuspecting individuals. These innocent individuals were then left to pay the 1% interest on the loan amounts, according to the Old Bailey court hearings.
The trial, held at the Old Bailey, saw nine members accused of being involved in the alleged scam.
A 32 year old male, by the name of Kelvin Okusanya from Milton Keynes, is accused of personally making dozens of the loan application whilst 8 others, aged 21 to 46 are accused of allowing the funds to pass through bank accounts in their names. The scam affected thousands of ‘ordinary’ members of the public who were unaware of any problems at the time.
It is estimated that the fraudsters netted in excess of £3 million from payday loan lenders Wonga through the scam by ‘targeting one of Britain’s most controversial institutions’, as heard from Richard Hearnden, the case prosecutor. Although the loan amounts were all in the hundreds, Wonga paid out thousands of these smaller amounts which snowballed well into the millions.
When discussing the 30 victims being highlighted in the trial, Mr Hearnden referred to them as “the smallest tip of a very substantial iceberg”
When assessing loan applications through its payday loan website, Wonga adopts an algorithm to determine if the given information is accurate as well as checking if the account number matches the name and other details of the loan applicant. When discussing this procedure Mr Hearnden pointed out that quite clearly ‘this algorithm failed’. Consequently, thousands of successful applications were made and funds were paid into accounts that were in no way affiliated with the applicant whose details had been used. As a result, some victims even made repayments for these loans that they had never even asked for.
The criminal group used the same password for all the applications ‘Bengali90’ making it possible to identify all of the 19,013 applications they had made once they were discovered.
The trial is still ongoing and currently Kelvin Okusanya currently denies 3 counts of fraud by false representation whilst all other defendants deny entering into an arrangement facilitating the acquisition of criminal property.
When asked about the case, a spokesman for Wonga said: “This relates to a historical issue that was stopped in June 2013. We cannot comment further on what are ongoing legal proceedings.”