Public warned over increase in scams during coronavirus outbreak 2 months ago

Public warned over increase in scams during coronavirus outbreak

There's criminals looking to make a profit.

People in Ireland are urged to be cautious following a significant increase in the number of fraudsters attempting to scam the public using the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both Interpol and the Gardaí have warned people to be wary of buying medical supplies online. Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, demand for face masks and other medical equipment is high and Interpol has said fake shops, websites, social media accounts and email addresses claiming to sell these items have sprung up online.

People do not receive the equipment they order and instead money is taken from their account.

In March, Gardaí warned of similar scams and urged the public to exercise caution.

“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."

Fraudsters are also using a variety of phishing emails and calls to try and steal personal information form unsuspecting members of the public.

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 malware.

Interpol has issued the following advice to remain safe from coronavirus related scams during the current pandemic.

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. ‘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.