Commander Karen Baxter
National Lead for Fraud, City of London Police
The City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) is warning the public to be alert as criminals continue to exploit coronavirus to commit fraud.
Updated figures show there have been over 2,594 reports to Action Fraud on COVID-19 related fraud since 07 June 2020, with total losses of £8,770,196 million.
What scams are we seeing?
The majority of reports are related to online shopping scams, where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser, and other products that have never arrived. In a lot of cases, if they have arrived, they have been sub-standard.
Other frauds being reported include ticket fraud, romance fraud, advance fee fraud and rental fraud. Examples of these scams include criminals posting fake adverts of pets for sale and getting victims to pay a deposit for the animal, that in fact, does not exist.
How you can protect yourself
1) Watch out for scam messages
Don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails or texts, and never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for your personal or financial details.
2) Do your research when shopping online
If you’re making a purchase from a company or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first and ask a friend or family member for advice before completing the purchase.
Remember to look at reviews for the site or seller to see if other people have experienced any issues.
If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, use a credit card if you have one, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases.
3) Protect your devices from the latest threats
Always install the latest software and app updates to protect your devices from the latest threats.
There have been over 2,594 reports to Action Fraud on COVID-19 related fraud since 07 June 2020, with total losses of £8,770,196 million.
How you can help
In April, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) launched the pioneering ‘Suspicious Email Reporting Service’, developed in partnership with the City of London Police. The service makes it easier than ever to flag suspicious emails – including those related to coronavirus.
Members of the public can send their suspicious emails to [email protected] and the NCSC’s automated programme will immediately test the validity of the site. Any sites found to be phishing scams will be removed immediately.
As well as taking down malicious sites, the service will support the police by providing live time analysis of reports and identifying new patterns in online offending – helping them stop even more offenders in their tracks.
Empowering people to simply forward questionable emails to [email protected] meant that, within just 24 hours of the service launching, more than 80 scam URLs were taken down after 5,000 suspicious emails were flagged, helping to prevent future victims of crime. Since then, more than 672,000 reports have come in, leading to over 5,000 previously unknown phishing URLs being removed.
There are various examples of what has been taken down with the help of the reporting service, including scam web pages featuring mock-ups of official Gov.uk and TV licensing websites, plus web pages purporting to sell coronavirus linked bogus products such as testing kits, face masks and even vaccines.
Technology is helping us keep connected during coronavirus, but it is sometimes exploited by criminals.
The fact the public have taken the opportunity with this new email reporting service to fight back and show these criminals how unacceptable this is, is fantastic.
Fraud is an incredibly underreported crime. The more the police know about fraud, and fraud attempts, the better chance they have of tracking down those responsible and bringing them to justice.
If you have lost money, you should tell your bank and report it as a crime to Action Fraud online at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.