Wiltshire Police’s digital investigations and intelligence unit, set up to investigate cyber crime, said all their calls were now linked to the pandemic. Det Sgt Ian Magrath, a CID detective turned-cyber investigator, said: “It’s all covid related, whether it is the false NHS Go Fund Me page or local Go Fund Me pages shared via social media through to things like ‘click on this link for a rebate on Covid self-testing kits’. It’s the same things we’ve seen nationally.”
Action Fraud, the organisation that collects cyber fraud reports, said it had received more than 1,300 reports of scams linked to the coronavirus pandemic. Victims said they had lost almost £2.8m.
The perpetrators live all over the country, Mr Magrath said.
“There is no telling. Yes, we find some locally. There are some Swindon-based suspects we’re looking at at the moment, but we’re dealing with people from Manchester, from the Midlands, the Met Police area, all over the country. A lot will be out of the country.”
Mr Magrath said the Wiltshire unit kept in regular contact with other forces.
Cyber crime officer Lee Stripe urged business to improve their security measures in order to guard against the fraudsters.
He said: “An increase in home working presents some threats. You’ve got your phishing emails threat.
“None of these scams are new. With home working, the threats are around how people have their devices set up - are they secure? Many companies may be using new software for the first time. In a rush to get everybody working again probably security wasn’t at the forefront of their minds.
“They’re not new threats, but they may be new threats for companies to bear in mind in terms of properly configuring their VPNs and having the right licences and bandwidth available.”
Sextortion scams, which have increased significantly under lockdown, continue to be reported to police forces nationwide. Action Fraud received over 9,000 reports last month alone.
Head of Action Fraud Pauline Smith, said: “The criminals sending these emails are ruthless, unscrupulous individuals who don’t care about the impact of their actions on victims.”