Free provision of vaccines is preventing criminals from infiltrating rollout, say police – The Guardian

NHS

Centralised NHS system is ‘key to stopping vaccine fraud’, reveals National Crime Agency

The UK’s rapid vaccine rollout is being protected from the threat of serious organised crime and corruption by the structure and principles of the NHS, senior police officers say.

The National Crime Agency, which is monitoring any attempt by organised syndicates to profiteer from the covid vaccine programme, said the centralised systems of the NHS helped safeguard it from attempts to infiltrate its supply chain.

But it was the NHS’s principle of providing free treatment for all that was the most crucial factor in protecting the so far successful vaccine rollout, particularly when compared with countries that relied on private healthcare and were more vulnerable to fake vaccines and fraud.


“You can’t buy the vaccine and you can’t sell it, that from a clear public messaging point of view makes it easier,” said Ben Russell, deputy director of the NCA’s national economic crime centre. “Also you know it’s real because it’s being administered by the National Health Service and they’re not going to ask for your bank details or turn up at your house unannounced.”

His comments coincide with the latest data from Action Fraud, which is overseen by the City of London Police, showing there have been 580 reports of attempted vaccine fraud, but these appear to be low level opportunistic attempts to defraud the public rather than organised crime.

Recently the government launched an information campaign reminding the public that the NHS would not ask for payment because the “vaccine is free”.

Figures from the City of London Police, which specialises in fraud investigations, also reveal they are aware of more than 8,200 vaccine related phishing emails, when criminals attempt to trick users into revealing personal data.


Concerns that transnational narcotics syndicates may attempt to use their supply chains to move into the illicit distribution of covid vaccines have, said Russell, proved unfounded.

In December Interpol issued a global alert to global law enforcement agencies warning them that organised crime networks may target coronavirus vaccines physically and online.

The international police coordination agency said the pandemic had prompted “unprecedented opportunistic and predatory criminal behaviour” and warned of a new wave of criminal activity “in relation to the falsification, theft and illegal advertising of Covid-19 vaccines”.

{{#ticker}}

{{topLeft}}

{{bottomLeft}}

{{topRight}}

{{bottomRight}}

{{#goalExceededMarkerPercentage}}

{{/goalExceededMarkerPercentage}}

{{/ticker}}

{{heading}}

{{#paragraphs}}

{{.}}

{{/paragraphs}}
{{highlightedText}}
{{#cta}}
{{text}}
{{/cta}}