Criminals exploiting coronavirus pandemic to steal personal information warns National Crime Agency

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Organised crime groups may try to exploit the coronavirus outbreak to target the UK, the National Crime Agency has warned.

NCA intelligence assessments have identified a number of issues that criminals are already looking to exploit.

Cyber-crime investigators have seen instances of coronavirus-themed malicious apps and websites, as well as email phishing attacks aimed at stealing personal and financial information.

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Steve Rodhouse, NCA Director General, said: “Our mission in leading the fight against serious and organized 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.”

The NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit is advising people to be extra vigilant when seeking out online information relating to the pandemic.

The City of London Police have issued an alert regarding fraudsters using the outbreak to facilitate fraud and cyber-crime.

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Reported cases include criminals posing as health officials in an attempt to get victims to disclose personal information.

The NCA is advising people to be extra vigilant when seeking out online information relating to the pandemic.The NCA is advising people to be extra vigilant when seeking out online information relating to the pandemic.
The NCA is advising people to be extra vigilant when seeking out online information relating to the pandemic. | other

Border Force officers at Dover seized half a tonne (500kg) of cocaine, leading to one man being charged with attempted importation earlier this week.

A man from Blackpool was also charged by the NCA after the recovery of firearms and ammunition at the Channel ports.

NCA intelligence has suggested that some people-smugglers are telling migrants the UK is safer than the continent in a bid to drive up demand.

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There have also been cases of criminal networks exploiting demand for certain coronavirus-related products.

One such incident saw a consignment 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 after attempting to send 60 more fake treatment kits to France, the US, and other parts of the UK.

He has since been charged.

Following the closure of schools, the NCA said there is now a risk of increased offending as more people spend longer online and indoors.

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A man from Darlington was sentenced on Monday for making more than 45,000 abuse images as a result of an NCA investigation.

As schools close, the agency is increasing its work with partners to bolster child safeguarding and online safety education.

It has urged parents to visit the Thinkuknow website for advice about keeping 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.

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“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.”