NHS Covid pass scam warning issued as fraud conviction rates hit lowest levels since 2007
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NHS Covid passes allow people to present their COVID-19 status which may be needed by those travelling abroad, attending events or visiting certain venues in England. As the economy reopens, these passes may be needed more and more over the coming months but this could bring with it financial risk.
Tony Pepper, the CEO of Egress, warned “Covid passport” emails directing people to fake NHS websites have emerged.
Mr Pepper highlighted what needs to be looked out for: “Cybercriminals have continuously taken advantage of the uncertainty created by the pandemic, and this latest scam is no exception.
“Hackers are once again targeting people with highly convincing malicious emails aimed at stealing personal data, including payment details, under the guise of an NHS application for a Covid pass.
“It’s important to remain hyper-vigilant when it comes to emails, SMS and voice calls from unknown senders, and always question why they might need your information – or your payment details.
“If you’ve received an email asking you to apply or pay for a Covid pass, we would advise you to reach out to Action Fraud.
“Additionally, when it comes to suspicious emails, our advice would always be to hover over any links before clicking, and to double check the email domain of the sender, especially if the email is requesting your personal information.
“If you’re in any doubt, contact the sender organisation through another channel or speak to Action Fraud.”
People will need to be especially cautious at the moment as once the fraud has taken place, affected individuals are unlikely to get justice.
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Today, the wealth manager Quilter, through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, found fraud convictions in England and Wales secured under the Fraud Act 2006 have slumped to their lowest level since 2007, with just one in 700 incidents of fraud convicted in 2019.
The data showed fraud convictions have fallen by 10 percent on average year-on-year since 2011 to reach levels not seen since the Act was first introduced.
This is despite the fact that financial investment fraud recorded by Action Fraud has increased by 48 percent on average year-on-year since 2016.
In 2019, 3,710,000 incidents of fraud occurred in England and Wales, but only one in five of these cases (743,380) were reported to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).
Of these, just 5,234 convictions were secured under the Fraud Act 2006, amounting to one in 142 cases reported to the authorities.
This compares to around one in every 32 police recorded thefts ending in a conviction in the same year.
The same FOIs also showed that despite fraud carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a fine, in 2020 the average custodial sentence secured under the Act was just under 20 months and the average fine was £463.
Debbie Barton, a financial crime prevention expert at Quilter commented: “Over the past few years, we’ve seen a worrying rise in the number of investment frauds reported to Action Fraud. From dubious cryptocurrency and forex trading schemes to non-existent investment bonds, fraud lurks everywhere, particularly online and on social media.
“Yet instead of seeing an uptick in the number of fraud convictions to match the rapid increase in reports to Action Fraud, we’ve seen the opposite. Fraud convictions have dropped off a cliff since 2011 to reach levels not seen since the Act was first introduced.
“Investigating fraud is extremely complex, costly and time consuming, hence why hard stretched police forces have had to make the difficult decision to prioritise other crimes. The result of which being that the legal deterrent for committing fraud is practically non-existent.
“The surging fraud numbers and falling convictions should send alarm bells ringing in the Government. What we need is a holistic review of the UK’s fraud landscape to consider why so many fraudsters are slipping through the net, and to consider how authorities can send a strong message that they intend to get a grip on fraud once and for all.
“A good start to protect the public would be for the government to include further fraud typologies in the Online Safety Bill so that technology companies have a legal duty to tackle harm caused on their sites, and have to take up the slack in monitoring the online world for scams.”
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