471 fake COVID-19 shops shut down as “despicable” scammers capitalise on pandemic

Hundreds of fake online shops selling fraudulent coronavirus safety equipment have been shut down by UK authorities as scammers seek to capitalise on the pandemic.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said 471 fake stores had been taken offline over the past month, alongside around 2000 more online scams.

These included 900 advance-fee fraud schemes which promise a large sum on money in return for a one-off payment.

It warned that criminals are increasingly using fear surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic to swindle shoppers and has urged people to report anything they suspect to be fraudulent.

“Criminals are seeking to exploit our greater use of emails, video conferencing and other technologies for their advantage,” Minister for Security James Brokenshire said.

“It’s despicable that they are using the coronavirus outbreak as cover to try to scam and steal.”

READ MORE: Black Friday scams hit 24% of under 35s costing an average of £661

The NCSC has now launched a new national awareness campaign and set up a Suspicious Email Reporting Service where shoppers can forward suspected scam emails.

When an email is forwarded to report@phishing.gov.uk an automated programme will test the address for red flags.

NCSC chief executive Ciaran Martin added: “Technology is helping us cope with the coronavirus crisis and will play a role helping us out of it – but that means cyber security is more important than ever.

“With greater use of technology, there are different ways attackers can harm all of us. But everyone can help to stop them by following the guidance campaign we have launched today.

“But even with the best security in place, some attacks will still get through.

“That’s why we have created a new national reporting service for suspicious emails – and if they link to malicious content, it will be taken down or blocked. By forwarding messages to us, you will be protecting the UK from email scams and cyber crime.”

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