A Birmingham man has been arrested for allegedly selling fake coronavirus testing kits on the dark and open webs, as part of the National Crime Agency’s response against criminals trying to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 38-year-old, who was arrested at his home in the city’s Jewellery Quarter, was taken into custody yesterday for alleged offences under the Fraud Act 2006. He is believed to have sold the kits to customers in the UK and the United States.
A property was searched in Edgbaston, Birmingham, where suspected fake COVID-19 testing kits were found. A 36-year-old being sought in connection with selling kits was not present, and officers are urging him to come forward.
Healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, have been urged to report cases of fake testing kits via the Yellow Card Scheme or by emailing the MHRA directly. Healthcare professionals are also asked to report any website or social media post offering these types of products.
Matt Horne, Deputy Director of Investigations at the NCA, said:
“Anyone thinking of trying to profit from the public’s fears about the pandemic should take note of this arrest. Bringing offenders to justice and ceasing their activities is a key priority across law enforcement, the NCA will target criminals who pose a risk to our collective effort to tackle the pandemic.
“We are investigating a number of reports on the sale of counterfeit products relating to Covid-19, and will continue to work with partners to protect the public.”
Ben Russell, Deputy Director of the National Economic Crime Centre, said:
“We know that criminals are trying to turn the pandemic to their advantage, but there are things you can do to help stay safe. Be even more cautious than usual when shopping online and always follow the Take Five To Stop Fraud advice: Stop, Challenge & Protect. If you believe you are a victim, please report it to your bank and Action Fraud immediately.
“We are working together across law enforcement, the government and private sector to protect the public and combat these offenders.”
Andy Morling, Head of Enforcement at the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, said:
“We work closely with the National Crime Agency and other law enforcement agencies to protect public health and prevent unlicensed medicines and non-compliant medical devices getting into circulation.
“No COVID-19 antibody self-testing kits have received CE mark status and there are no such testing kits available in the UK for home use. It is also illegal to supply these self-test kits for use by members of the public in the UK.
“Products that have not been tested to ensure they meet standards of safety, performance and quality cannot be guaranteed and this poses a risk to individuals’ health.
“We urge the public and healthcare professionals to report to us via our Yellow Card Scheme any website or social media post offering to sell these types of products.
“Always make sure you are buying your medicines from a registered pharmacy or website and your medical devices from reputable retailers.”
James Mancuso, from Homeland Security Investigations, said:
“We commend our National Crime Agency partners for their swift response during this global crisis. Homeland Security Investigations remains committed to our international partners in maintaining public safety, and holding persons attempting to profit in these uncertain times, accountable for their criminal and dangerous acts.
“Despite widespread illness and deaths caused by COVID-19, individuals and organizations operating around the globe are actively seeking to exploit and profit from the pandemic.
“From financial fraud schemes targeting vulnerable populations, to the importation of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, to websites defrauding consumers, these illicit activities compromise legitimate trade and financial systems, threaten the integrity of international borders, and endanger the safety and security of the public.
“Utilising its unique and expansive authorities, strategic footprint and partnerships worldwide, and robust cyber capabilities, HSI is conducting Operation Stolen Promise to protect the public from the increasing and evolving threat posed by COVID-19-related fraud and criminal activity.”