The easing of the first lockdown in July 2020 saw an increase in crime rates as the return to freedom of movement enabled criminal activity to resume and heightened poverty (as a result of the pandemic) drove increased offending. Crime rates dropped again during the subsequent lockdowns, but history suggests that the latest easing of restrictions will see another resurgence.
So, what kinds of criminal activity should businesses and individuals be particularly alert to in the post-lockdown world? “We will almost certainly see an increase in all forms of crime, including petty and opportunistic crime, violent criminal, and organised criminal activity,” says Mike Evans, Head of Intelligence at Securitas. “We also expect to see more trespassing as a result of greater social freedoms, and opportunities to blend in with other members of the public.”
Stay alert when out and about
Criminal gangs are likely to take advantage of people returning to public places and the anonymity of face masks only serves to embolden them. It’s anticipated that personal theft is likely to increase, with mobile phones being a particular target. “As ever, everyone must be alert to the risk and take steps to protect themselves and their property,” cautions Mike, “This includes company property, particularly devices – laptops, tablets and phones – which are easily stolen by thieves using distraction techniques, for example in coffee bars, a favoured location for informal meetings amongst people still working from home.”
Beware of scams targeting businesses and SMEs
Over 6,000 cases of COVID-19 related scams have been recorded during the course of the pandemic with an estimated £34.5 million lost. “From bank loan scams to fake COVID-19 vaccine information, fraudsters have manipulated the pandemic for financial gain,” Mike explains, “They deploy a range of sophisticated techniques including in-person and telephone contact, email-based phishing and fake websites, to persuade businesses and individuals to part with their money and personal information. Often they pose as legitimate organisations offering ‘financial support’ including government grants, loans and aid via the furlough scheme and also NHS Test and Trace operations. In this way they are able to harvest crucial business information such as bank details and intellectual property. Scammers also use social media and online dating websites to manipulate people into handing over money.”
Three steps to avoid being defrauded
Before opening or entering information in any link sent via email or text, it’s worth taking a moment to:
- Stop: Think twice before parting with any information or money.
Challenge: Could it be fake? Remember, it’s perfectly okay to reject, refuse or ignore any requests.
Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you or any of your employees have fallen for a financial scam.
The terror threat remains
Although the UK Terror Threat Level was decreased to SUBSTANTIAL in February, this still means an ‘attack is likely’, and terrorism remains one of the most direct and immediate risks to the UK’s National Security. “The easing of restrictions will provide terrorists and extremists with greater targeting opportunities (particularly a return to crowded places),” Mike points out, “so businesses must remain alert to suspicious or unusual activity in their vicinity”. The pandemic has also increased online radicalisation opportunities amongst vulnerable people, who are at risk of being exploited by extremist groups.
The pandemic has forced many changes upon us all, but it has also demonstrated our ability to adapt to new behaviours. While our re-discovered freedoms are a source of relief and optimism for businesses and individuals alike, maintaining a more vigilant approach will enable us all to enjoy them more safely.
Peace of mind
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