The National Crime Agency (NCA) is warning the public to be vigilant as criminals adapt their tactics in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
The NCA has said that fraudsters, cyber-criminals, online child sex offenders, and drug dealers are all trying to evade law enforcement with many adapting their behaviour under lockdown.
Director-General of the National Crime Agency, Lynne Owens, said:
“Our mission in leading the UK’s fight against serious and organised crime is as critical as ever, as criminals capitalise on these times of uncertainty.
“We are watching vigilantly for any new patterns of behaviour – since we know offenders are capable of spreading fear and anxiety no matter what the cost.
“The NCA is taking robust action against those seeking to exploit the coronavirus.”
Two people were arrested on suspicion of illegally selling unregistered COVID-19 testing kits and the NCA also recently took down a website trying to lure victims into buying suspected non-existent personal protective equipment (PPE) through phishing emails.
The NCA has said that it is leading work with partners to tackle the cyber-criminals exploiting the pandemic to disseminate ransomware, malware and phishing campaigns targeting individuals and organisations. Since the COVID-19 outbreak the National Cyber Crime Unit has taken down six domains.
Law enforcement monitoring of the illicit drugs threat has informed the NCA that there are fewer drugs available in the UK and therefore prices are rising; this means drugs continue to be a valuable commodity and criminals will continue to work to run their criminal enterprises.
Drug dealers are concerned about closer scrutiny from law enforcement and in some cases drug dealers are posing as key workers in case they are stopped and questioned. By continuing to deal drugs, they are significantly increasing the risks of spreading the virus.
Ms Owens said:
“The evidence we’re seeing shows how groups are changing their behaviour and we are working round the clock – with partners – to ensure we’re ready for them.
“I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the dedication and resilience of officers in the NCA, partner agencies and forces for their commitment and resolve in these circumstances – and for the way they are all rising to this challenge in order to protect the public.”
This circular is being shared under the Open Government Copyright licence.