The National Crime Agency is warning the public to be vigilant as criminals adapt their tactics in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
As the agency leading UK law enforcement’s fight against the corrosive threat, the NCA is vigilantly monitoring the current situation and has seen significant changes in the way criminals are behaving.
Fraudsters, cyber-criminals, online child sex offenders, and drug dealers are all trying to evade law enforcement with many adapting their behaviour under lockdown. As a response the NCA is redoubling its efforts - deploying officers, working online and in the real world to relentlessly pursue these high harm threats.
Director General of the National Crime Agency, Lynne Owens, said:
“Our mission in leading the UK’s fight against serious and organised crime is as critical as ever, as criminals capitalise on these times of uncertainty.
“We are watching vigilantly for any new patterns of behaviour – since we know offenders are capable of spreading fear and anxiety no matter what the cost.
“The NCA is taking robust action against those seeking to exploit the coronavirus.”
On Tuesday a joint investigation between West Yorkshire Police and the NCA resulted in the seizure of two firearms, including a Glock, in Leeds, with one person arrested.
Two people were arrested on suspicion of illegally selling unregistered Covid-19 testing kits and the NCA also recently took down a website trying to lure victims into buying suspected non-existent personal protective equipment (PPE) through phishing emails.
The NCA is leading work with partners to tackle the cyber-criminals exploiting the pandemic to disseminate ransomware, malware and phishing campaigns targeting individuals and organisations. Since the Covid-19 outbreak the National Cyber Crime Unit has taken down six domains
Law enforcement monitoring of the illicit drugs threat tells us that there are fewer drugs available in the UK and therefore prices are rising; this means drugs continue to be a valuable commodity and criminals will continue to work to run their criminal enterprises.
On the evening of Tuesday 14th April, a Polish van driver was stopped by UK Border Force near Calais. In his van were two consignments of 200 face masks. Stashed within one of the parcels of masks officers found 14 kilos of cocaine.
The same evening, five suspects were arrested as £2million of cocaine and £300k cash were seized in a major anti-drugs and money laundering operation run by officers from the NCA and the Metropolitan Police Service.
Drug dealers are concerned about closer scrutiny from law enforcement and in some cases drug dealers are posing as key workers in case they are stopped and questioned. By continuing to deal drugs, they are significantly increasing the risks of spreading the virus.
Online child sex offenders are seeking to exploit the fact that more young people and children are at home and are online. The NCA continues its pursuit of high-risk online offenders to ensure they are arrested and children are safeguarded.
In the last four weeks alone the NCA has developed and disseminated 1,060 online CSA packages to UK policing, executed eight warrants against high risk CSA offenders, making five arrests including two suspected transnational child sex offenders.
And the agency has launched a programme of 15-minute activities for parents and carers to do with their children to bolster their online safety.
Ms Owens said:
“The evidence we’re seeing shows how groups are changing their behaviour and we are working round the clock - with partners - to ensure we’re ready for them.
“I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the dedication and resilience of officers in the NCA, partner agencies and forces for their commitment and resolve in these circumstances – and for the way they are all rising to this challenge in order to protect the public.”
16 April 2020