Thousands of cases of COVID-related fraud and cyber-crime are being investigated
A special police task force, tackling fraud in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, says it is investigating 6,000 cases of cybercrime, worth a staggering total of £34.5 million since March last year.
The Action Fraud team is investigating many cases, but said that of those reporting a cyber-attack to volunteer-run Cyber Helpline, only a quarter also reported the incident to the police.
However, the pandemic appears to have coincided with a fall in one type of cyber-crime. Reported cases of computer software service fraud – in which criminals call offering fake tech support to fool victims into sharing their payment card details and other credentials – dropped by 15.5 per cent.
Meanwhile, the National Cyber Security Centre is tackling about 30 “significant attacks” a month against the country’s pandemic response infrastructure.
These involve attempts to breach the NHS, vaccine producers and vaccine supply chains, among other organisations.
In the capital, City of London Police, which coordinates efforts to combat fraud, said more than 150 related arrests were made since the pandemic began.
In addition, more than 2,000 websites, phone numbers and email addresses linked to the crimes have been recorded and there was a total of 416,000 reports of fraud and cyber-crime.
The activity peaked between April and May 2020, and January this year – both times when lockdowns were in force.
Many of the scams involved conning people out of their money and financial details by focusing on internet shopping.
Related fraud was 42 per cent higher over the pandemic than the preceding year, as criminals took advantage of the fact many physical stores had been forced to close.
Charities are also common targets as one in three suffered a cyber-attack during the first 10 months of the pandemic, according to a survey by Ecclesiastical Insurance.
Another popular type of cyber-fraud involved romance scams, in which people looking for relationships via the net often get fooled into sending money to prospective partners, who prey on their emotions.
Businesses and individuals are being warned to take caution in light of this surge in scams.