September 26, 2020

Coronavirus: Scammers use ‘hook’ of pandemic to target victims

People and businesses should be wary of scammers trying to turn the coronavirus pandemic to their advantage, the National Crime Agency (NCA) has warned.

Scammers have been targeting vulnerable people including those self-isolating at home, the NCA said.

Graeme Biggar, director general of the agency’s National Economic Crime Centre, said the virus was increasingly being used as “a hook to commit fraud”.

It comes as two people were arrested on suspicion of selling illegal tests.

A 46-year-old pharmacist from Croydon, south London, was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of making false and misleading claims about the capability of coronavirus testing kits he had allegedly tried to sell, the NCA said.

Officers seized £20,000 in cash and searched two properties and a car. The suspect was released on bail.

Separately, on Sunday, investigators arrested a 39-year-old surveyor from Uxbridge, west London, who had allegedly planned to sell 250 testing kits to construction workers.

He was also held under the Fraud Act, investigators said.

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No home tests have yet been certified under European safety standards – and it is illegal to sell them.

The use of home testing kits is also not advised by Public Health England.

Nikki Holland, NCA director of investigations, said: “Criminals capitalise on fear and anxiety and they will exploit any opportunity, no matter how awful, to line their pockets.

“Illegally selling testing kits completely undermines the nation’s collective response to the pandemic and actually endangers lives.”

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