The UK government set up a Covid scam hotline after being criticized for failing to comply with warnings of risks related to business emergency loans.
The hotline operated by Crimestoppers allows the public to leave anonymous notices of suspected fraud related to the government’s Covid-19 emergency loan and UK business grant programs. These can include identity theft to obtain credit, fake funding applications and the use of so-called mule bank accounts to cover the traces of money launderers.
The government has been criticized for failing to heed warnings of potential fraud related to the Bounce Back Loan Program (BBLS), which aimed to quickly distribute cheap loans of up to £ 50,000 to small businesses.
The National Audit Office said last week that BBLS scams would lose taxpayers billions of pounds. The National Crime Agency and the state-run British Business Bank – which oversees the Covid loan programs – have also warned of fraud related to bounce-back loans.
People are urged to look out for telltale signs of fraud, such as unusual purchases from companies or individuals, or cold calls from companies claiming to be offering government funds or intermediaries and requiring personal banking information.
The hotline is open for 12 months and costs the government £ 100,000 to set up, operate, deliver and publish. Criminal activity related to vacation, universal loan, or “eat-to-help” programs is not recorded. Anonymous tipsters with information on vacation fraud will be forwarded to the HMRC.
Julia Lopez, Minister of the Cabinet Office, said: “A lot of people work hard to pay their taxes. We must not let criminals benefit from the Covid crisis because every pound stolen by fraudsters could be invested in our vital public services. “
Call the … Crimestoppers Covid Fraud Hotline free on 0800 587 5030