Cybercrime: Coronavirus

Home Office written question – answered on 11th January 2021.

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Photo of Colleen Fletcher Colleen Fletcher Opposition Whip (Commons)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment she has made of the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on trends in the (a) number and (b) number of victims of online scams; and what steps her Department is taking to help protect (i) people and (ii) businesses from cyber crime.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Minister of State, Home Department

The Government is aware that fraudsters are exploiting the pandemic to commit opportunistic crimes such as fraud. Along with partners in law enforcement, the public sector and the private and third sectors, we have been implementing measures to ensure the public has the protection and advice needed to protect themselves from these crimes.

The Home Office collects data on individual fraud categories, some of which will be committed online, but we are unable to provide a breakdown of these offences.

The Home Office collects quarterly data on the number of reports of fraud made to Action Fraud that have been recorded as criminal offences by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB). The most recently available data for the year ending June 2020 have been published by the Office for National Statistics and can currently be found in Table A5 here:

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/crimeinenglandandwalesappendixtables

Our efforts include working with the National Cyber Security Centre to establish a new Suspicious Email Reporting Service. This service allows the public to report potential scams safely and effectively. To date, this has led to the removal of over 22000 scams. Members of the public can currently forward suspicious emails to the dedicated email address: report@phishing.gov.uk

In addition, in 2019 the Government launched specialist Cyber Crime Units in every local police force, in order to improve the local response, provide an effective investigative response and an improved victim experience. The Government also provides funding for the Cyber PROTECT police officers and staff in all policing regions and local forces, and Cyber Resilience Centres, which are now live in each region, providing cyber security advice and support to micro and small SMEs.

However, law enforcement cannot do this alone. The best way to deal with these scams is for the public to be well-informed on how to protect themselves. That is why we have launched a gov.uk page that contains easy-to-follow steps for people to spot potential frauds and the steps they can take to avoid them. It also signposts advice and support to those who may unfortunately have fallen victim. This page can currently be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-fraud-and-cyber-crime

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