"we are monitoring intelligence and crime trends"
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought much of the UK to a standstill, however, it has provided an opportunity for criminals, selling fake Coronavirus test kits and sending bogus emails.
Criminal networks are exploiting the demand for certain Coronavirus-related products.
One incident saw a shipment of suspected fake COVID-19 test kits sent from the UK seized by US border officials in Los Angeles.
A man was arrested in Sussex by City of London Police. He had attempted to send 60 more fake kits to France, the US and parts of the UK. He has since been charged.
The National Crime Agency sent out a warning that criminals may try to target the UK.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, the NCA continues to protect the public and leads the UK’s fight to cut serious and organised crime.
Steve Rodhouse, NCA Director General (operations), said:
“Our mission in leading the fight against serious and organised crime has never been more important, and our work continues.
“We recognise that the COVID-19 outbreak may provide opportunities for criminals, and we are monitoring intelligence and crime trends to ensure that we, and the whole law enforcement system, can react as needed.”
A number of issues that criminals are looking to exploit have been identified.
Instances of Coronavirus-themed malicious apps and websites, as well as email phishing attacks which are aimed at stealing personal and financial information, have been seen by investigators.
Action Fraud has received a number of Coronavirus-related fraud reports. The number is expected to rise in the coming weeks.
The majority of reports are of phishing emails, which try to trick people into opening malicious attachments or disclosing personal information.
One tactic is where fraudsters contact people over email claiming to be able to provide a list of people infected in their area.
To access the information, the recipient is asked to click on a link, which leads to a malicious website, or they are asked to make a Bitcoin payment.
People have also made online purchases, but the items never arrived.
National Trading Standards is warning people of scams which include people cold-calling homes, offering holiday reimbursements and many other ways to get the public to part with their money.
More information can be found on their Facebook page Friends Against Scams.
The NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit has advised citizens to be extra vigilant when seeking out online information relating to the pandemic.
An alert has been issued regarding fraudsters using the pandemic to facilitate fraud and cybercrime.
Some cases include criminals posing as health officials in a bid to get victims to give out personal information.
The NCA continues to protect children from online abuse. On March 23, 2020, a Darlington man was sentenced for making over 45,000 abuse images.
As schools close, the NCA is working to increase child safeguarding and online safety education.
There is a risk of increased offending as people spend more time online and indoors, and the NCA is appealing to parents and carers to visit the Thinkuknow educational website for advice about keeping children and young people safe.
Mr Rodhouse added:
“Like all organisations, we are having to make some adjustments to how we operate in light of the outbreak, but we are an operational law enforcement organisation responding to a national security threat.
“The NCA is providing services that directly keep the public safe and also allow others across law enforcement to do the same, and these will be maintained throughout the pandemic.
“We are also working closely with law enforcement partners both in the UK and abroad – many of whom a similarly affected – to ensure that our ability to cooperate is maintained and that we continue to work together to protect the public.
“And I would ask the public to remain vigilant during this difficult time and report anything they think might be suspicious.”