City of London Police update – Assistant Commissioner Alistair Sutherland
So much has changed since my last column. Without exception, all of our lives have been impacted by COVID-19 and our daily routines are completely transformed.
Society has been forced to adapt quickly and we’ve all had to accept that life may not return to how it was before any time soon, if ever. As all of us have adapted to the fast-moving situation, criminals are no exception. They will use any opportunity to defraud innocent people.
Throughout the pandemic, we at the City of London Police, in our role as the lead police force for economic crime, have worked with the Government, law enforcement, security agencies, regulators and the private sector to protect the public and businesses from all types of fraud.
We have seen a number of scams relating to COVID-19. These include people falling victim to online shopping scams, and fake websites and emails posing as genuine companies. Criminals are also using Government branding to try to trick people, including using HMRC branding in unsolicited emails, calls and texts to make spurious offers of financial support.
More remote working presents an opportunity for criminals to commit computer software service fraud. This involves offers of help to fix devices. As IT systems are under increased pressure, such offers may seem more believable. In reality, criminals are trying to gain access to your computer or get you to divulge your login details and passwords.
Together, we are working day and night to protect the public and bring these criminals to justice. We have:
- Developed, with partners, a suspicious email reporting service, which, in its first three weeks, saw 300,000 reports from the public that led to 2,250 links to scam web pages being taken down;
- Charged a man with making and selling fake COVID-19 treatment kits;
- Executed warrants against people suspected of sending emails and texts purporting to be from the Government;
- Disseminated 131 COVID-19-related fraud reports to police forces for investigative action and victim support;
- Issued disruption notices to industry partners requesting suspension of 59 websites, email accounts and phone accounts identified through Action Fraud reports as being linked to COVID-19 fraud;
- Held a number of free cyber security webinars and produced a series of videos with tips for safe homeworking.
Sadly, criminals are likely to continue to exploit people’s financial concerns to try to take advantage of the pandemic. Fraud is incredibly difficult to predict and, while we are monitoring trends carefully, the most important thing is to get the message out there to be aware, be alert, and think twice before parting with money or personal details.
Our work to protect people from fraud has been done alongside our local response to the pandemic, providing a visible presence to reassure communities and deter criminal activity across the Square Mile.
Our day-to-day experience of policing during the pandemic has reinforced the importance of bringing about a number of changes I spoke about in my last column, where I promised to keep you updated on how we are progressing in our ambition to make the Square Mile the safest city area in the world.
Over the next three to five years, as part of our corporate plan, we plan to introduce a new local policing model. Our policing teams will move to covering geographical sectors, each with a senior officer who is responsible for their sector and accountable to the residents, workers and stakeholders within it. During our response to the pandemic, we have trialled sector patrols and found that these have been successful in maximising our visibility, reassuring the public and deterring crime.
We know our business community has been particularly concerned about non-residential burglary during this time, with businesses closed down or adjusting their working hours and staffing numbers to help control the spread of COVID-19. Keeping business premises safe has been a priority for us.
In my last column, I said that, by now, if you live or work in the City, you would have begun to see a difference in the way we deliver our policing services. Inevitably, some of these changes have had to be delayed as we divert our precious resources towards our response to the pandemic. However, we remain committed to delivering these changes to make this the safest city area in the world, and I will keep you updated on our progress in future columns.
As we move into the next phases of the Government’s plan to ease lockdown restrictions, I want to reassure you that we will continue to work around the clock, with our partners, to keep you safe. Whether that’s protecting your workplace from burglary, sharing advice about how to protect yourself online, or simply being there on the streets of the Square Mile to offer reassurance, we will be here for you.
Protect yourself from fraud and cybercrime
Protect devices and online networks
If you’ve fallen for a scam…
Contact your bank immediately. Then report it to Action Fraud online or on 0300 123 2040 (or 101 if in Scotland)
Report suspicious texts
Forward the text to 7726
Report suspicious emails
Forward the email to email@example.com
See other articles from City of London Police in our Police and Partnerships category.