According to Europol, five mega trends have a significant impact on serious and organized crimes during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Lee Kok Leong, executive editor, Maritime Fairtrade, reports
These factors shape criminal behavior and create vulnerabilities. Based on experience gained during prior crises, Europol said it is essential to monitor these factors to anticipate developments and pick up on warning signals.
- Online activities. More people are spending more time online throughout the day for work and leisure during the pandemic, which has increased the attack vectors and surface to launch various types of cyber-attacks, fraud schemes and other activities targeting regular users.
- Demand for and scarcity of certain goods, especially of healthcare products and equipment, is driving a significant portion of criminals’ activities in counterfeit and substandard goods and fraud.
- Payment methods. The pandemic is likely to have an impact on payment preferences beyond the duration of the pandemic. With a shift of economic activity to online platforms, cashless transactions are increasing in number, volume and frequency.
- Economic downturn. A potential economic downturn will fundamentally shape the serious and organized crime landscape. Economic disparity across Europe is making organized crime more socially acceptable as these groups will increasingly infiltrate economically weakened communities to portray themselves as providers of work and services.
- Rising unemployment and reductions in legitimate investment may present greater opportunities for criminal groups, as individuals and organizations in the private and public sectors are rendered more vulnerable to compromise. Increased social tolerance for counterfeit goods and labor exploitation has the potential to result in unfair competition, higher levels of organized crime infiltration and, ultimately, illicit activity accounting for a larger share of GDP.
Europol’s Executive Director Catherine De Bolle said criminals are exploiting the changing circumstances during the pandemic and international police needs to work with the increased connectivity both in the physical and virtual worlds. She added that exchanging criminal information is essential to fighting crime within the law enforcement community.