Pandemic fraud warning as two arrested over false Covid-19 test claims

Support us and go ad-free

The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is increasingly being used as “a hook to commit fraud”, a senior investigator has warned.

Director general of the National Economic Crime Centre Graeme Biggar expects to see an increase in scams amid the Covid-19 outbreak and said that individuals and businesses need to be prepared.

He spoke out as the National Crime Agency said it had arrested two people on suspicion of illegally selling tests for the virus.

A 46-year-old pharmacist from Croydon, south London, was arrested under the Fraud Act on Saturday after he allegedly made false and misleading claims about the tests.

Officers seized £20,000 in cash and searched two properties and a car, before releasing him on bail.

NCA officers search a pharmacy in south London
NCA officers search a pharmacy in south London after arresting a 46-year-old on suspicion of illegally selling Covid-19 tests (NCA handout/PA)

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

The following day investigators arrested a 39-year-old surveyor from Uxbridge, west London, with 250 testing kits, that he planned to sell to construction workers.

He was also held on suspicion of making false and misleading claims about the capability of the tests.

Biggar said: “Covid-19 is increasingly being used as a hook to commit fraud – and we think these offences are likely to increase during the pandemic.

“Individuals and businesses need to be fully prepared for criminals trying to turn the pandemic to their advantage by scamming them out of money.”

The use of coronavirus tests at home is not currently advised by Public Health England.

There are no tests for home use that are CE marked, a certification that shows compliance with European safety standards, and it is illegal to sell them.

Nikki Holland, NCA director of investigations, said: “Criminals capitalise on fear and anxiety and they will exploit any opportunity, no matter how awful, to line their pockets.

“Illegally selling testing kits completely undermines the nation’s collective response to the pandemic and actually endangers lives.”

Details of the arrests came after Europol said it had foiled a plot to defraud German health authorities of millions of euros as they tried to buy face masks.

The FBI also warned it has seen multiple incidents of conmen targeting government and health industry bodies responsible for buying protective equipment and ventilators.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us