Business Your Stories

Monday 23 April 2018

How can you ensure the safety of your firm? Hire a criminal to check it out

Tony Sales stole an estimated £30m from retailers and was on the run for over six years - now he uses his skills to advise some of the biggest businesses on their fraud strategies

Tony Sales
Tony Sales
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

A businessman has attributed his firm's success in loss protection to his own criminal background in fraudulent activity.

Tony Sales believes that his decades of experience in organised crime gives him an edge when it comes to advising some of the biggest businesses in the world.

Over the course of twenty years, Tony progressed from robbing phone boxes in his early teens to credit card fraud and later mortgage fraud before he was caught by authorities.

"The first time I was caught was in 2000, because I was stupid, greedy and silly, that's how it goes," the now 43-year-old told independent.ie.

"If you're going to be a criminal, you've got to expect to be caught at some point."

'Being hungry' as child in south London meant more to Tony than a desire for food; he had an appetite for money and the happiness he believed that would bring.

"I lived with my grandmother as a kid and I was bullied and had low self esteem," he said.

"I wanted to be like the other kids, I wanted to impress the girls and have the nice trainers. I did the only thing I knew to comfort myself, to change the happiness cycle. It dragged me down a path I didn't want to go down."

By the age of 16, Tony said he was paying young waiters and waitresses £50 each to keep note of the credit card numbers that were being used in their restaurants. A chance trip to Oxford Circus' Topshop store led him to another layer of credit card fraud.

"It was the first time I heard the term 'interest free, buy now, pay later'. I was told that if I had a debit or credit card number and an address and bank account, I could get access to up to £1000 the same day".

Before his second incarceration in 2009, after being on the run from authorities for six years, Tony had stolen an estimated £30m from retailers and had around 50 people for him.

At this point, he had a wife and children "who knew nothing of what was going on" and was beginning to realise that his lifestyle had repercussions for others, not just himself.

After serving 12 months in jail, Tony decided to use his unique skill set in legal ways and is now advising some of the biggest businesses on their fraud and loss prevention strategies.

"I wanted to try and help, I wanted to see what else could I do to help people. I’m not a great speaker but I am interesting and people were intrigued. My back story opened up other doors and now my life is very different," he said.

Once labelled 'Britain's Biggest Fraudster', Tony's company 'WeFightFraud' is now working for the good guys. And doing it well.

"We understand the crime from the other side of it, coming from the inside out. The police are only ever reactive - that's why the criminal is always one step ahead," the father-of-four said.

"I’ve stolen £15m for a company in an hour and gave it all back, to show how it could be. That multimillion pound company is now safe and sound."

While Tony would go through "the normal checks" if someone with a criminal background approached him for a job, he said he would view the application like anyone else, "as I know how people can change".

"The leading professionals in loss prevention are obviously good at what they do but they don't think the same as someone like me. All those years of being hungry, you can't learn that stuff."

Tony will be in Dublin later this month to speak at DataSolutions’ fifth annual Secure Computing Forum in the Aviva Stadium.

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