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Crimes in the physical and cyber world are continuing regardless of covid-19, while using the pandemic as an opportunity.

As for fraud, Royal Mail has warned of a new ‘depot scam’ doing the rounds in the UK. This scam involves a fake email informing customers that they have missed a delivery and asks them to pay postage charges. The email also includes a link to a webpage where people are asked to upload their personal and financial details to rearrange delivery. The cpoutner-fraud trade association Cifas is reminding people never to click on links in emails, or provide personal or financial details as this makes it easy for fraudsters to commit identity theft.

Amber Burridge, Head of Fraud Intelligence for Cifas, said: ‘As the government begins to outline how the nation will come out of lockdown and recover from the pandemic, it’s important we all remain vigilant to any final attempts by criminals to exploit the situation over the next few months.

‘When being asked to click on links and share your personal details, take your time to assess the situation and consider the impact of handing over your details. Cifas members reported a 195 per cent increase in account takeover fraud in the retail sector in 2020, and it’s believed phishing attacks by criminals to harvest personal information was a key enabler of this fraud. Your personal details could also be used to facilitate identity fraud should they end up in the wrong hands. Be wary if you’re contacted out of the blue requesting your details, and if you believe you have fallen for a scam, report this to Action Fraud or Police Scotland immediately.’

The European Union’s agency the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has warned governments to be on their guard against offers to provide them with covid-19 vaccines. Ville Itälä, the Finnish Director-General of OLAF, said: “We are hearing reports of fraudsters offering to sell vaccines to governments across the EU. These offers come in many different forms. For example, fraudsters may offer to sell large quantities of vaccines, deliver a sample in order to pocket the first advance payment and then vanish with the money. They may deliver batches of fake vaccines. Or they falsely may purport to represent legitimate business and claim to be in the possession of or have access to vaccines.

“All of these claims have one thing in common: they are false. They are hoaxes organised to defraud national authorities looking to step up the pace of vaccination to keep their citizens safe. They must be stopped as quickly as possible.”

In Cambridgeshire, three men who were caught hare coursing twice in a month have been handed three-year Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs) by magistrates. Cambridgeshire Police say that the county’s flat and rural landscape make it a popular area for hare coursing and other rural crime. Police ask the rural public to look out for groups of vehicles parked (particularly by a gateway to farmland, on a grass verge, on a farm track or bridleway), estate cars, four wheel drives or vans with dogs inside or groups using binoculars to spot hares.

Hare coursing season is when crops have been felled, which leaves clear fields. Hare coursing normally takes place at dusk or dawn and is typically carried out by large groups. Beyond the cruelty, coursing leaves fences and gates damaged by vehicles as driveres forcibly gain access. Hence an eight-week campaign by the crime reporting charity Crimestoppers in Essex, encouraging people to report suspicious behaviour and those who are involved, rather than to confront it.

Meanwhile Crimestoppers are also offering a reward of up to £1,000 for information to find a litter of five puppies stolen from a farm in Upper Swell, Gloucestershire, earlier this month. Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Katy Bourne has created an online survey to seek the public’s views of dog theft, enforcement, and the prosecution of offenders.

The survey includes a question seeking views on whether companion animals should be treated in law as sentient beings, not merely as property. Mrs Bourne said: “Pet theft, dog theft in particular, is a growing concern for the public and their fear has been perpetuated over the last couple of weeks with shocking reports in the media of more dogs being snatched by criminals.

“I am incredibly eager to get more detail around this issue and understand residents’ views and if they feel more could be done to respond to their concerns or for more preventative measures to be put in place to better protect their pets.

“I’m pleased to see the Home Secretary recognising the devastating impact of this crime and I hope that the results of this survey will give the Government the evidence it needs to take more robust action against perpetrators.”

The survey link, until March 12 is: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/dogtheft.


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