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2020 was a record year for online scams

(Image credit: Image Credit: Gustavo Frazao / Shutterstock)

During 2020, there were 15 times more online scams than in the previous year, a new report from the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) claims.

Basing the report on the results of the organization’s Active Cyber Defence program, the NCSC claims to have mitigated more than 700,000 online scams last year, which includes 1.4 million URLs. 

The program heavily focused on protecting the National Health Service (NHS), which makes sense given the scale of the pandemic and how big of a target the NHS is. A total of 122 phishing campaigns against the NHS were spotted last year, all of which used NHS branding and sought to harvest credentials. In 2019, there were just 36 similar attempts. 

Criminals used the Covid-19 vaccine rollout as a lure, as well as fake copies of the NHS Test and Trace mobile app. Besides the NHS, other topics used more frequently by scammers included TV licensing and Brexit.

The NCSC credits the massive increase in scams identified to the expansion of the Takedown Service and the “hugely successful” Suspicious Email Reporting Service, a new tool launched in April last year, which received almost four million reports.

While many scams were money-oriented, some were organized by nation-states, the report further claims, with the NCSC managing to expose Russian attacks on coronavirus vaccine development.