Criminals are taking advantage of the pandemic by turning their attention to online crime. As lockdown continues, across the UK, there has been a drop in street crime of 21%. However, online crime, driven by predatory transnational gangs, is on the rise.
This means that consumers and businesses are much more likely to be victims of fraud and dangerous counterfeited goods. The Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG), the UK’s leading anti-counterfeiting organisation, is urging people to be extra careful when they spend online.
Fake goods imported to the UK are worth over £13bn and result in losses of £4bn to the retail and wholesale sector. It is no surprise, that during this crisis, the market has been flooded with fake surgical masks, emergency clothing, sanitisers, testing kits, thermometers, cleaning solutions, anti-bacterial wipes, indoor sports equipment, refrigeration appliances, and even bogus COVID-19 treatments. But general fraud, scams and cybercrimes are also on the up.
Phil Lewis, Director General at the Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG) said, “Organised crime groups always follow the money and have no moral values. Predictably, they are now exploiting the fears and anxieties of consumers who are looking for ways to keep themselves and their families safe and well. The crisis has given these callous criminals even greater opportunity to feed their depraved activities, which often include child labour and trafficking in people, drugs and weapons. We are urging the consumer to think before they buy.”
During this difficult time, our enforcement authorities are even more stretched. Therefore, ACG is asking consumers and businesses to take responsibility themselves to ensure the fraudsters and counterfeiters are not given free rein to destroy our families, livelihoods, jobs, and vital public revenue, which could be used to fight the virus.
ACG warns, “The key is to think before you buy and provide any personal or banking information. Also, try and verify that what you are buying is from a dependable online retailer or a reliable source. Moreover, ignore random requests for money or bank transfers and even avoid opening any unexpected emails.”
In relation to counterfeit products, ACG believes that businesses need to maintain and develop more extensive measures to look after themselves. Criminals are stockpiling fake goods in readiness for the crisis to pass. Companies need strong and effective strategies to make sure their products and brands are safeguarded.
It is vital to have people on the ground to ensure that wilful infringers and criminal counterfeiters are continuously kept at bay. Company brand protection teams will be a key to this, by identifying growing threats, supporting enforcement authorities on the ground and delivering essential plans for continuing brand protection.