Criminals seek to exploit COVID-19 outbreak

Tuesday June 2nd, 2020

Organised crime groups target most vulnerable.Cold Hard Justice

Criminals are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic and playing on the fears of businesses and the public, Scotland’s Serious Organised Crime Taskforce has heard.

Organised crime groups are now focusing on targeting those most vulnerable at home and in the care sector, including:


  • a care home in the Forth Valley area was left without a PPE order after the supplier claimed they had not received the £10,000 payment, despite it being sent. A police investigation showed that the payment had been moved from the bank account it was paid into and they believe organised criminals were behind it
  • a number of reports of people knocking doors and offering to disinfect the householder’s driveway to rid it of any COVID-19 for a fee
  • businesses emailed by scammers urging them to click on an official-looking link for a £25,000 grant. The link leads to a fake ‘UK Government’-branded website asking for business and banking details
  • £10,000 fraud intercepted by Scottish Borders Council when an application for a business support grant was hacked by criminals who requested the redirection of the payment to a different bank account. Due to the checks in place the council were alert to the scam and the money was not paid out


Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf, chair of the Taskforce, said:

“Organised crime groups are adept at taking advantage of any situation that presents itself. People are understandably concerned about their health, and that of their family, as well as concerned about their jobs. It is abhorrent, but not unexpected, that these groups are looking to exploit those fears and concerns. A business falling victim to one of these scams could be disastrous, especially if they are already struggling and could ultimately lead to them stopping trading.

The Taskforce partners are unified in the approach to implement Scotland’s Serious Organised Crime Strategy, and agree on the need to ensure members of the public are made aware of the risks from criminal gangs, as well as how they can report suspicions safely to help law enforcement agencies to tackle such crimes and ultimately prevent them. It is important that we all do what we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones. I would encourage anyone that if they see something, say something.”

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