Birmingham resident arrested for selling fake Covid-19 testing kits on the Dark Web

The National Crime Agency has arrested a Birmingham resident for allegedly selling fake Covid-19 testing kits on the Dark Web in an attempt to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic for financial gain.

The 38-year-old resident of Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham sold a number of fake Covid-19 testing kits to customers in the UK and United States and was taken into custody last week under the Fraud Act. The fake testing kits were found hidden in another property in Edgbaston, Birmingham and a 36-year-old individual is being pursued in this matter.

“Anyone thinking of trying to profit from the public’s fears about the pandemic should take note of this arrest. Bringing offenders to justice and ceasing their activities is a key priority across law enforcement, the NCA will target criminals who pose a risk to our collective effort to tackle the pandemic,” said Matt Horne, Deputy Director of Investigations at the NCA.

Image Source: NCA

Ben Russell, Deputy Director of the National Economic Crime Centre, said that “we know that criminals are trying to turn the pandemic to their advantage, but there are things you can do to help stay safe. Be even more cautious than usual when shopping online and always follow the Take Five To Stop Fraud advice: Stop, Challenge & Protect. If you believe you are a victim, please report it to your bank and Action Fraud immediately. We are working together across law enforcement, the government and private sector to protect the public and combat these offenders.”

The use of the Dark Web by criminals to sell counterfeit and banned goods is not a new revelation. In May, Israeli cyber intelligence firm Sixgill found that the supply of drugs via Dark Web marketplaces grew by 495% between December and April with the number of items for sale increasing from 4,154 on 23rd December to 24,719 items on 27th April.

The firm noted that the listings for illegal drugs on Dark Web platforms peaked on 23rd March this year but declined throughout April as social distancing restrictions began to lift around the world. However, even the Dark Web could not resolve issues in the illegal drugs market like problems with shipping and customers not willing to pay under the threat of layoffs and furloughs.

The sale of fake Covid-19 testing kits at a time when the demand for such kits is enormous is in line with the usual trick used by cyber criminals to exploit the demand for certain items to peddle fake products and services in exchange for money. In early May, NCA also arrested 46-year-old pharmacist from Croydon who tried to illegally sell coronavirus testing kits by fooling users and making false and misleading claims about the tests’ capability.

The agency took down a website which was fooling victims into buying suspected non-existent personal protective equipment (PPE) through phishing emails. This investigation took place as a part of NCA’s proactive response against criminals trying to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic. NCA officers seized around £20,000 and arrested the 46-year-old pharmacist from Croydon under the Fraud Act 2006 for making false and misleading claims about the tests’ capability.

In a separate investigation, a 39-year-old surveyor from Uxbridge was arrested after officers stopped his car and recovered 250 Covid-19 testing kits. He was also arrested under the Fraud Act 2006 after making similar claims regarding the capability of the tests.

“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.

Anyone thinking of trying to profit in this way should take note of these arrests and that bringing these offenders to justice and ceasing their activities is a key priority across law enforcement,” said Nikki Holland, NCA Director of Investigations.

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