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Criminals exploiting coronavirus pandemic to steal information

The National Crime Agency has urged people to be extra vigilant when seeking information online about Covid-19.

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The National Crime Agency has warned that organised crime groups may exploit the coronavirus pandemic (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The National Crime Agency has warned that organised crime groups may exploit the coronavirus pandemic (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The National Crime Agency has warned that organised crime groups may exploit the coronavirus pandemic (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Criminals are exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to steal information from people in the UK, the National Crime Agency (NCA) has warned.

Investigators said they have already seen Covid-19-themed malicious apps and websites designed to steal people’s personal and financial information.

Meanwhile, City of London Police arrested and charged a man in Sussex for attempting to send 60 fake coronavirus treatment kits to France, the US and other parts of the UK.

A consignment of fake test kits sent from the UK was seized by US border officials in Los Angeles, the NCA said.

There have also been reports of criminals posing as health officials to get victims to disclose private information.

City of London Police have issued an alert warning of criminals using the outbreak to facilitate fraud and cyber-crime.

NCA director-general Steve Rodhouse 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.”

Despite travel restrictions affecting the volume of traffic passing through the border, drug and people smugglers continue to operate, the NCA said.

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

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

People-smugglers are also telling migrants that the UK is safer than the Continent in a bid to drive up demand, NCA intelligence suggests.

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

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

Mr Rodhouse, said: “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.

“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 co-operate 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.”

PA