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Bath College scam – Tracing Funds

The phrase ‘cash is king’ used to be a truism but in this digital world, most money changes hands digitally, which can be both a good and a bad thing for anyone suspected of financial crime.

This is because all digital transactions leave a footprint that forensic investigators can follow, so where an individual is not guilty, an investigation may reveal their innocence and if they are guilty, it could provide proof of their crime.

A recent example of criminals being convicted through examination of their digital footprints, was a scam perpetrated by two men who used the name of a real college to defraud a foreign student out of thousands of pounds after they enrolled on fictitious courses.

The men charged the students up to £6,500 for a place on a fake business course at a real, prestigious college in Bath.

The college was unaware of the con until a student came to look around before starting their studies, only to find that no such course existed and that they were not enrolled.

As soon as the college was alerted, it reported the scam and a forensic investigation was launched by Bath & North East Somerset Council Trading Standards, the police and HM Revenue & Customs.

The investigation traced the money the students had paid to bank accounts owned by the two perpetrators, which led to further enquiries into their online transactions that uncovered other scams aimed at defrauding innocent victims.

The two men, one from Leicester and the other from London, were convicted of money laundering and given suspended sentences.

Helen Gregory, Forensic Director at Milsted Langdon, said: “A forensic investigation into allegations of fraud can work both for and against the suspect.

“Forensic accountants are expert at tracing the source and destination of funds, so if these are legitimate, then they can prove that the individual is innocent of the charges.

“However, if they are guilty, regardless of how clever they think they have been, the true picture will often be revealed, as was the case in this latest scam.”

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