Coronavirus: Criminals seizing upon pandemic fears to sell bogus medicines

Interpol warns fraudsters are capitalising on goods shortages in shops

Criminals are capitalising on fears caused by the coronavirus pandemic by running an array of scams to take the public’s money, Interpol has warned.

Fake websites and emails have sprung up claiming to selling in-demand products that are difficult to find in shops such as facemasks.

Fraudsters have also contacted people claiming a relative has fallen sick with coronavirus and asking for payment for medical treatment.

They have also impersonated genuine heath authorities and tried to trick victims into providing personal information or sending emails with malware attached.

“Criminals are exploiting the fear and uncertainty created by COVID-19 to prey on innocent citizens who are only looking to protect their health and that of their loved ones,” said Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock.

“Anyone who is thinking of buying medical supplies online should take a moment and verify that you are in fact dealing with a legitimate, reputable company, otherwise your money could be lost to unscrupulous criminals,” he added.

Interpol said it had helped with some 30 virus-related scams with links to Asia and Europe leading to the blocking of 18 bank accounts. More than $730,000 related to suspected fraudulent transactions have been frozen.

A week-long multinational investigation found 2,000 advertisements related to the virus and some 34,000 unlicensed or fake products. They were typically sold as “corona spray”, “coronavirus medicines” or “coronavirus packages.”

“Criminals who sell medicines and devices illegally are not only breaking the law but have no regard for your health and will take advantage of a major public health crisis to make a profit,” said Mark Jackson at the UK government’s medicine regulator.

“Taking fake or unlicensed medicines and using a non-compliant medical device could put your health and safety in danger and may lead to serious health issues,” he added.

The public have been urged to be vigilant and verify companies or individuals claiming to sell products. Often bogus websites will have an almost identical domain name to legitimate set-ups.

Legitimate health authorities do not normally request personal information for medial checks, Interpol said.

Published: March 19, 2020 08:07 PM


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