A National Crime Agency boss says he "absolutely expects" heartless criminals to try selling fake Covid vaccines when real ones roll out.

Fraudsters have already peddled fake PPE and Covid-19 test kits during the pandemic as people increasingly buy products online.

Reports of fraud relating to online shopping, investments and romance have also increased during the pandemic, said NCA National Economic Crime Centre director general Graeme Biggar.

Speaking to a webinar held by the Resilience First Group he said people have attempted to scam Government furlough schemes and business relief, writes the Independent.

The warning came after the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said cyberattacks by Russia and other hostile states present an "ongoing threat" to UK efforts to develop a vaccine.

Even fake testing kits have been sold by heartless scammers

Mr Biggar said criminals were using Covid as "hook" to try different types of fraud. He added: "The new emerging threat will be around vaccine fraud.

"We haven’t seen much of that yet but we absolutely expect when vaccines begin to roll out that there will be people offering fake vaccines. We are trying to get ahead of that trend now."

Paul Chichester, the NCSC’s director of operations, said hostile states were focused on vaccine research, while criminal groups were also targeting hospitals and healthcare bodies.

Drug giant Pfizer believes its Covid vaccine could be approved next month

"It’s an ongoing threat and it continues to date," he said earlier this month. "We know states are interested in a variety of elements of the vaccine work – the research behind it is part of that but also knowledge around the success, the trial data.

"It’s also about the likelihood of the supply chain being successful, and a variety of different elements of the vaccine as we move from doing the research to the delivery and supply of it. States are trying to understand how the UK is prepared for that."

Drug giant Pfizer announced this week it believes its vaccine is 90% effective against the Covid-19 virus.

The government has said that if approved, delivery of the vaccine from Belgium would not be affected by any delays caused by Brexit from 1 January.

Two UK vaccine trials are also ongoing - one developed by US biotechnology company Novavax and one by the University of Oxford.