INTERPOL is warning that criminals are taking advantage of coronavirus anxiety to defraud victims online. The public should 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.
Surgical masks and other medical supplies are in high demand yet difficult to find in retail stores. INTERPOL warns that 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 which have been reported to INTERPOL by authorities in its member countries.
Seven steps to protect yourself
• 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. ‘abc.org’ instead of ‘abc.com’
• 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 stopped
• 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 manner