The Government has issued a warning to members of the public and businesses about the potential for fraud related to Coronavirus.
Police forces, local authorities and organisations across the UK are being inundated with information from companies and individuals about potential scams that are being operated by fraudsters relying on the panic caused by the pandemic and the changes to business procedures resulting from home working.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau said fraud reports related to the outbreak have surged by 400 per cent in recent weeks, with 105 cases recorded in just over a month, leading to losses totalling £970,000.
The first Coronavirus-related scam was reported on 9 February but there have since been many more complex cases reported.
These scams are taking many forms including requests for pensions transfers, high-return investment opportunities or health insurance supplements.
Meanwhile, Action Fraud, has received more than 200 reports of Coronavirus-themed phishing emails, which trick recipients into opening malicious attachments allowing the theft of their personal information or financial details.
Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “It is a sad fact of humanity that a crisis not only brings out the best in people but also the worst. On the one hand, we see armies of volunteers who have stepped forward to help those in need. Yet, at the same time, these crime figures show that there are always those willing to use the crisis for their own selfish ends, often exploiting the most vulnerable in society.
“The important thing for everyone to remember is that even if we are working from home, we need to be just as careful, if not even more vigilant than ever, especially when it comes to financial transactions.
“As stock markets plummet across the globe, investors, especially the elderly who rely on their savings, are understandably anxious. Sadly, the criminals are all too aware of how worrying it is to see the value of one’s savings fall. They use that fear help trick their victims with false promises that persuade them to hand over their money, which is never seen again.
“This type of fraud can be very sophisticated and in one recent case, we saw two individuals managing to swindle nearly £4 million from a few dozen investors in the space of only a few months.
“Forensic accountants can help with claims made after the fact but it is far better to avoid the need for a claim to be made in the first place by remaining vigilant and strictly following financial procedures even at the risk of appearing pernickety or pedantic.”