Friday 13 March 2020

****INTERPOL warns of financial fraud linked to COVID-19

****INTERPOL warns of financial fraud linked to COVID-19
Criminals taking advantage of coronavirus anxiety to defraud victims online
LYON, France – INTERPOL is encouraging the public to exercise caution when buying medical supplies online
during the current health crisis, with criminals capitalizing on the situation to run a range of financial scams.
With surgical masks and other medical supplies in high demand yet difficult to find in retail stores as a result
of the COVID-19 pandemic, fake shops, websites, social media accounts and email addresses claiming to sell these
items have sprung up online.
But instead of receiving the promised masks and supplies, unsuspecting victims have seen their money
disappear into the hands of the criminals involved.
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 in its member countries.
COVID-19 fraud schemes
Scams linked to the virus include:
 Telephone fraud –criminals call victims pretending to be 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, with the aim of tricking
victims to provide personal credentials or payment details, or to open an attachment containing
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 JΓΌrgen 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.
Blocking and recovering fraudulent payments
Monetary losses reported to INTERPOL have been as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars in a single case,
and these crimes are crossing international borders.
INTERPOL’s Financial Crimes Unit is receiving information from member countries on a near-daily basis
regarding fraud cases and requests to assist with stopping fraudulent payments. Targeted victims have primarily
been located in Asia, but the criminals have used bank accounts located in other regions such as Europe, to appear
as legitimate accounts linked to the company which is being impersonated.
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In one case, a victim in Asia made payments to several bank accounts unknowingly controlled by criminals in
multiple European countries. With INTERPOL’s assistance, national authorities were able to block some of the
payments, but others were quickly transferred by the criminals to second and even third bank accounts before they
could be traced and blocked.
To date, INTERPOL has assisted with some 30 COVID-19 related fraud scam cases with links to Asia and
Europe, leading to the blocking of 18 bank accounts and freezing of more than USD 730,000 in suspected fraudulent
INTERPOL has also issued a Purple Notice alerting police in all its 194 member countries to this new type of
Warning signs
If you are looking to buy medical supplies online, or receive emails or links offering medical support, be alert
to the signs of a potential scam to protect yourself and your money.
 Independently verify the company/individual offering the items before making any purchases;
 Be aware of bogus websites –criminals will often use a web address which looks almost identical to
the legitimate one, e.g. ‘’ instead of ‘’;
 Check online reviews of a company before making a purchase – for example, have there been
complaints of other customers not receiving the promised items?;
 Be wary if asked to make a payment to a bank account located in a different country than where the
company is located;
 If you believe you have been the victim of fraud, alert your bank immediately so the payment can be
 Do not click on links or open attachments which you were not expecting to receive, or come from an
unknown sender;
 Be wary of unsolicited emails offering medical equipment or requesting your personal information
for medical checks – legitimate health authorities do not normally contact the general public in this

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