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Tony Lammerton
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National Crime Agency warn that organised crime groups may try to exploit the coronavirus outbreak

By Published March 23, 2020

The National Crime Agency today warned that organised crime groups may try to exploit the coronavirus outbreak to target the UK.

Despite the unprecedented situation with the pandemic, the NCA is continuing to protect the public and leading the UK’s fight to cut serious and organised crime throughout this difficult time.

Steve Rodhouse, NCA Director General (operations), 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.”

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.

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.

The City of London Police have issued an alert regarding fraudsters using the outbreak to facilitate fraud and cyber-crime. Reported cases include criminals posing as health officials in an attempt to get victims to disclose personal information.

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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