Hackers and scammers have taken advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to launch email and phone scams. But now a police task force funded by the banking industry has set out to deal with the fraudsters.
The Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU) is made up of officers from the City of London Police and Metropolitan Police and is responsible for targeting the criminal gangs responsible for fraud.
The specialist police unit has executed several warrants across the UK in a crackdown on criminals sending scam text messages and emails exploiting the coronavirus outbreak. The crackdown has so far led to three search warrants. It has also identified several suspects and seized mobile phones and other devices linked to the illegal schemes.
“Working closely with the banks and mobile phone companies, we are successfully cracking down on the criminals using the COVID-19 outbreak to defraud vulnerable members of the public,” said Gary Robinson, detective chief Inspector. “This sends a clear message to those callously seeking to exploit this national crisis to commit fraud: we will track you down and bring you to justice.”
RegTech Analyst has previously reported about the rise in COVID-19 related scams noted since February. Several of these phishing schemes and attacks have seen the bad actors share compromised files posing as digital maps and dashboards of the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. Others have set up websites impersonating organisations such as the U.S. Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. These phishing attacks have proliferated since the start of the year.
Similar attacks have been seen in the UK where criminals claim to be from the government, HMRC or other trusted organisations, sometimes offering payments or tax refunds related to the outbreak.
“People are understandably anxious at this unprecedented time, with many concerned about their finances,” said Robinson. “It’s important to remember that criminals will exploit these fears and use COVID-19 as a cover story to try and trick you into giving away your money or personal details.”
Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, added, “The banking industry is working in partnership with the police to protect the public from Covid-19 scams and target the criminal gangs responsible.
“It’s crucial that people remain vigilant against criminals using the coronavirus outbreak to send fraudulent emails and text messages. If you receive an unexpected text message or email, follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and remember that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police. Don’t click on any links or attachments, and don’t respond to any messages that ask for your personal or financial details in case it’s a scam.”
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