Hackers have raked in £34.5 million from COVID-related scams

City of London Police told IT Pro that a spike in January was caused by vaccine phishing emails

Cyber criminals have managed to rake in £34.5 million from COVID-related scams since the start of the pandemic, according the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) operated by the City of London Police.

Hackers have moved to exploit the coronavirus crisis for personal gain on a mass scale, with the NFIB’s reporting centre Action Fraud receiving 6,073 reports of COVID-related fraud and cyber crime over the past 12 months.

Examples include scams that impersonate public health bodies such as the NHS, often duping victims with promises of receiving life-saving medication, vaccines, or financial support.

Most of the fraud incidents occurred during the start of the first national UK lockdown in spring 2020. However, following a steady decline, cases dramatically resurged again at the beginning of 2021, with a City of London Police spokesperson telling IT Pro that the “spike in January was in relation to a coronavirus vaccine phishing email”.

Covid-related fraud graph

Other examples of COVID-related fraud include setting up fake websites in order to impersonate shops selling items that were in demand over the course of the pandemic, such as testing kits and face masks.

The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) was forced to take several of these websites down, while NFIB managed to suspend over 2,000 fraudulent websites, phone numbers, and email addresses, arresting 156 people.

City of London police commissioner Ian Dyson said that “the past year has been incredibly challenging for every single one of us”. 

“Sadly, we have seen devious criminals taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic as a means to commit fraud, often honing in on people’s anxieties and the changes that have occurred to their daily lives. Policing has had to adapt quickly to what is an ever-changing public health situation, but nothing has stopped us from pursuing these individuals and disrupting their activity.

Related Resource

Remote workforce security report

Key challenges, security threats, and investment priorities of organisations during the pandemic

remote workforce security report - whitepaper from OktaDownload now

Commenting on the news, Mimecast’s head of E-crime Carl Wearn told IT Pro that “attack volume surged by 48% during the first year of the pandemic, with 358.96 million malicious detections in the UK during 2020”.

“Even though vaccine rollouts have begun and organizations may soon start making plans for people to return to offices in the months ahead,  the likelihood of threat actors continuing to exploit the unsettled work situation is very likely," he said. 

"We are now seeing sophisticated digital-deception campaigns where threat actors combine COVID-19-related social engineering with multi-channel campaigns – including email, social media, collaboration tools, and even phone – to gain credibility with their targets so they can then be tricked into giving away valuable information or credentials. People must be aware of these scams and stay alert to ensure they are not duped."

Featured Resources

Next-generation time series: Forecasting for the real world, not the ideal world

Solve time series problems with AI

Free download

The future of productivity

Driving your business forward with Microsoft Office 365

Free download

How to plan for endpoint security against ever-evolving cyber threats

Safeguard your devices, data, and reputation

Free download

A quantitative comparison of UPS monitoring and servicing approaches across edge environments

Effective UPS fleet management

Free download

Recommended

Ransomware hit industrial sector the hardest in the third quarter
ransomware

Ransomware hit industrial sector the hardest in the third quarter

25 Oct 2021
Tesco services knocked offline after suspected cyber attack
hacking

Tesco services knocked offline after suspected cyber attack

25 Oct 2021
Microsoft touts new cyber security help for nonprofits
cyber security

Microsoft touts new cyber security help for nonprofits

22 Oct 2021
Ofcom report reveals alarming uptick in smishing attacks
scams

Ofcom report reveals alarming uptick in smishing attacks

22 Oct 2021

Most Popular

Best Linux distros 2021
operating systems

Best Linux distros 2021

11 Oct 2021
Apple MacBook Pro 15in vs Dell XPS 15: Clash of the titans
Laptops

Apple MacBook Pro 15in vs Dell XPS 15: Clash of the titans

11 Oct 2021
Royal Mint to recover gold from smartphones and laptops in world first
Technology

Royal Mint to recover gold from smartphones and laptops in world first

21 Oct 2021