ORGANISED crime groups may be trying to exploit the coronavirus outbreak.
The warning came from the National Crime Agency (NCA), the government organisation which combats serious and organised crime, targeting and pursuing those criminals who pose the greatest risk to the UK.
Despite the unprecedented situation with the pandemic, the NCA is continuing to protect the public.
Their director general, Steve Rodhouse, said: ‘Our mission 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.’
CA 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.
The NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit is advising people to be extra vigilant when seeking out online information relating to the pandemic and to ensure they are following online safety advice which can be found on the National Cyber Security Centre website.
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 attempting to send 60 more fake treatment kits to France, the US, and other parts of the UK, and has since been charged.
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.’
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