COVID-19

Covid-19 Updates

Warwickshire Business Crime Team continues to support businesses with news and guidance on latest crime trends and protection advice available during the Covid-19 outbreak. Throughout the lockdown period, the Business Watch website has been kept updated by Business Crime Advisor.

The website features the latest alerts about crime affecting businesses as well as detailed crime prevention advice for download on a wide range of topics. Businesses can also find links to other groups who provide support including Trading Standards, the Safe in Warwickshire team and Action Fraud, and also the details of the team behind Business Watch and their contact details.

The free Business Watch Messaging System delivers incident alerts straight to your inbox along with a weekly compendium of information and advice. Sign up by clicking here.

BW Business Checklist Coronavirus

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Click and collect advice v1


Covid-19 Fraud Watch

During COVID-19, the main fraud trend is one of an increasing amount occurring. From friendly fraud to criminal fraud, account takeover and identity theft, the sheer number of transactions taking place online while people are shielded by online anonymity has made the internet a fertile ground for cybercrime.

Sadly, we’ve also seen the financial pressure placed on people due to furloughs and job losses contribute to the problem. These people are being targeted by phishing scams that offer financial aid and false employment websites that steal identities. The false accounts created using these details are then used to commit fraud across a number of sectors, from retail to online entertainment.

What’s more, this problem is further perpetuated as those who are feeling financial pressure are looking for ways to make money and some are turning to fraud to do so.

Cabinet Office update

  • Government Counter Fraud Function (GCFF) continue to receive intelligence on public sector fraud in particular grant fraud. This intelligence has led to a number of investigations that are currently ongoing.
  • There continues to be work around the suspected fraudulent provision of medical supplies and PPE.
    A multi-agency approach is being taken to identify and mitigate the risks associated with Test & Trace. A fraud risk assessment has been carried out and fed back into the development of the service.
  • A new central intelligence function has been set up in partnership with the NECC to collate information across the public sector. This function works in partnership with key stakeholders including financial services and law enforcement. Policy work is ongoing to explore whether this function will continue after the COVID-19 crisis and into a potential economic downturn.
    City Police NFIB update
  • Online shopping and auction fraud have continued to remain high and these are currently 58% higher than the baseline rate from 2019.
  • The CoLP NFIB – IDT have supported close to 30 arrests for Courier related frauds since the beginning of the crisis.
  • COVID-19 continues to appear in phishing emails in particular those that impersonate government departments.
  • BBC One programme ‘Your Money and Your Life’ that highlighted the perils of romance fraud, particularly during lockdown aired on Thursday 18 June. DI Steve Jackson from NFIB/Fraud
  • Advisory Group appeared as a special guest.

Pension fraud

Over the last few years The Pensions Regulator (TPR) have increased their powers in relation to pension fraud and have become more involved in criminal prosecution and recovery of assets.
Pension fraud has a large impact on the public and savers, particularly because pensions are such a large monetary investment.

 

In the years following the financial crash in 2008 there was an increase in pension liberation fraud and in the view of another potential crash following the COVID-19 crisis, prevention work is more important than ever.

There has been a decrease in the number of pension transfer requests during the crisis; however, this might change in the near future when the pandemic ends.

Project Bloom an initiative by TPR is a multi-agency working group that comes together to tackle pension fraud and share intelligence to build a clearer picture of the fraud landscape.

TPR in collaboration with the FCA have developed a multi-channel prevention campaign ‘Scam Smart’ that will be running again this year.

Members of the group were encouraged to contact TPR if they had intelligence they would like to share.

Prevention advice includes:

When considering an investment it is important to conduct due diligence. Key things to check include, the company’s website, who the company is associated with and the content of the investment.

Company formation

At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, there was a decrease in the number of reports to Companies House relating to suspected dishonest/incorrect accounts however, this has now started to increase. It was suggested that this could to be due to the significant changes to the working environment meaning checks to make sure accounts were valid had not been carried out.

There has not been a notable decrease in fraud reporting to Companies House during the crisis. Collated back office data continues to be used to support any ongoing fraud investigations.

Multi-agency work is ongoing with a particular focus on companies that have recently been incorporated with ‘COVID’ in their name.

Professional services

There has been a recent increase in conveyancing fraud. This has largely manifested itself through business email compromises.

Firms that provide conveyancing services usually rely on this as large source of their income and so this has led to a reduction in fees to get money in quickly as well as lower levels of due diligence.

Professional advisors are the first port of call when a business suspects they have become a victim of fraud and it is important they are aware of the risks to both them and their clients.

Prevention advice includes:

Conducting due diligence is an essential way to protect your business from fraud. Businesses can carry out the following checks, verifying the email address when you receive an email to ensure it is legitimate, replying to an email by starting a new email chain and using DMARC.

Financial services

Banks have recently seen a spike in account takeover attempts. However, there are concerns that these attempts are the result of data harvesting which has occurred during the COVID-19 crisis.
There are further concerns that if fraudsters are unsuccessful in their attempts to use harvested data to take over bank accounts that they will move onto targeting credit cards,building societies, and insurance companies.

There is also a potential that there will be an increase in property fraud and inflation of property prices to gain access to finance similar to the case of SFO vs Kallakis and Williams
The Fraud Advisory Panel recently issued a joint letter with Spotlight on Corruption and Transparency International to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The letter requested that the government increase transparency around the Bounce Back Loans and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Schemes by publishing the names of all companies who have received the loans.

Other COVID-19 fraud issues and trends

IT security researchers at Anomali have discovered a fraud where attackers are using fakeCOVID-19 contact tracing apps that mimic official government-issued apps to infect Android devices. These malicious apps drop spyware, Trojan, and adware on targeted devices across the globe. There are 12 such apps scamming users in 10 countries.

There have been reports of ransomware spread through phishing emails, targeting those in areas where there have been Black Lives Matter protests. The email asks users to download an attachment to fill out a survey. The form contains malware known as “TrickBot”.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in partnership with the Internet Advertising Bureau launched a new scam ad alerting system. This allows internet users to report scam ads appearing in paid-for space online to the ASA. It will then send an alert to advertising platforms and publishers with details of the scam ad

Revolut Card customers have been targeted by a fraudulent text message impersonating the company. The text says that the customers account is frozen and that they need to click a link to verify their ID.

Staff from a variety of organisations are offering services on the dark web. These services include facilitating the approval of loans, and selling fraud kits. These fraud kits contain details on the internal processes of the organisation and all the necessary forms to help you obtain the loan.

The NHS test & trace service is being spoofed by fraudsters. They call to notify you that you have been in contact with another individual who is confirmed to have the virus but that they cannot provide the name due to data protection regulations. They request you pay a fee for a test kit and if you don’t comply, you will be prosecuted.


 

With pubs, restaurants and cinemas set to reopen with social distancing measures, demand for tickets and reservations is likely to be high. We’re reminding people to take extra care when buying tickets online.

Spot the signs of ticket fraud:

  • Only buy tickets from the venue’s box office, official promoter or agent, or a well-known and reputable ticket site.
  • Avoid paying for tickets by bank transfer, especially if buying from someone unknown. Credit card or payment services such as PayPal offer greater protection against fraud.
  • Be wary of unsolicited emails, texts or adverts offering unbelievably good deals on tickets. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Is the vendor a member of STAR? If they are, the company has signed up to their strict governing standards.
  • STAR also offers an approved Alternative Dispute Resolution service to help customers with outstanding complaints.

New warning from UK Finance around Coronavirus holiday scams.

Consumers are being urged to be on the lookout for holiday scams including fake caravan and motorhome listings, refund offers and travel deals, as criminals take advantage of uncertainty around coronavirus travel restrictions and cancellations to target their victims and commit fraud.

With many people looking to book their summer breaks when lockdown ends, the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign has today published detailed guidance with information on common holiday scams and advice on how to stay safe from them.

Criminals are experts at impersonating trusted organisations such as airlines, travel agencies or banks. They will use a range of methods to approach their victims, including scam emails, telephone calls, fake websites and posts on social media and auction websites. Customers are therefore reminded to always follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and take a moment to stop and think before parting with their money or information in case it’s a scam.


 

 

CURRENT COVID-19 FRAUD RISKS

  • Conveyancing fraud
  • Bank account takeover fraud
  • Fake COVID-19 contact tracing apps
  • Ransomware
  • Pension fraud
  • Insider fraud (esp. disclosure of internal processes to facilitate fraud)
  • Phishing emails (esp. government departments)
  • Business email compromise.

 

ANTICIPATED AND/OR EMERGING ISSUES

  • Fraudsters that have harvested personal and company data during the COVID-19 crisis could start using this data to target banks, credit card companies, building societies, and insurance companies in the coming months.
  • There are concerns in the current crisis that fraudsters could begin to inflate property prices to gain access to finance.
  • It is anticipated that there will be an increase in investment and pension frauds as the pandemic comes to an end.

 

SOME SIMPLE PREVENTATIVE TIPS

  • You can report phishing emails to the National Cyber Security Centre by forwarding the email to report@phishing.gov.uk.
  • If you receive a fraudulent text message, you can report it directly to your mobile phone provider free of charge by forwarding the text message to 7726.
  • When considering an investment opportunity it is important to conduct due diligence.
  • Check whether a company is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority here.
  • The Financial Conduct Authority have issued guidance, available here.
  • The Pensions regulator have also issued guidance, available here.
  • Always use a familiar method to verify new or a change of bank details before a payment is made, for example a previously used telephone number. Contact details contained within an email and PDF invoices can be altered.
  • The Fraud Advisory Panel have issued a helpsheet on invoice fraud, available here.
  • The Law Society have guidance on their website relating to property fraud, available here.
  • The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in partnership with the Internet Advertising Bureau have launched a new scam ad alerting system, available here.