Interpol warns against Covid-19 scams

Photo shows airport ferry crew members at work. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) has requested the public remain alert when buying medical supplies online during the current outbreak of Covid-19 across the globe and warned of criminals taking advantage of the situation.

The agency warned of fake shops, websites, social media accounts and email addresses claiming to sell items such as surgical masks and other medical supplies. Instead of receiving the products unsuspecting victims have seen their money disappear into the hands of the criminals involved, warned Interpol.

This is one of several types of financial fraud schemes connected to the ongoing global health crisis which have been reported to Interpol by authorities.

Scams linked to the virus include:

Telephone fraud: criminals call victims pretending to be a clinic or hospital officials, who claim that a relative of the victim has fallen sick with the virus and request payments for medical treatment;

Phishing: emails claiming to be from national or global health authorities, to trick victims to provide personal credentials or payment details, or to open an attachment containing malware.

The agency stated that in many cases, the fraudsters impersonate legitimate companies, using similar names, websites and email addresses in their attempt to trick unsuspecting members of the public, even reaching out proactively via emails and messages on social media platforms.

“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 Jürgen 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,” concluded the Interpol Chief.