Image: Adobe Stock
Image: Adobe Stock
The International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) has sounded the alarm on the extent of crime which has been brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The organisation has urged the global community to be cautious of criminal elements seeking to cash in, particularly in light of the search for a vaccine.
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly led to unprecedented opportunistic and predatory criminal behavior, including here in South Africa, with hundreds of companies being probed by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) for suspicious contracts awarded for the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE).
In an orange notice issued on Monday, 7 December 2020, Interpol said it expected the criminal activities – particularly in the form of the falsification, theft and illegal advertising of COVID-19 and flu vaccines to continue.
“As a number of COVID-19 vaccines come closer to approval and global distribution, ensuring the safety of the supply chain and identifying illicit websites selling fake products will be essential,” said the organisation.
Countries including Russia and the United Kingdom (UK) have already started rolling out a vaccine for the respiratory disease, and Interpol has said criminal organisations are planning to infiltrate or disrupt supply chains.
“It is essential that law enforcement is as prepared as possible for what will be an onslaught of all types of criminal activity linked to the COVID-19 vaccine, which is why Interpol has issued this global warning,” said Interpol Secretary General, Jürgen Stock.
Stock has warned that criminal networks will also target unsuspecting members of the public via fake websites and false cures, which could pose a significant risk to their health, even their lives.
In light of increasing COVID-19-related fraud, Interpol has also advised members of the public to take special care when turning to the web to look for medical equipment and medicines.
It was learnt that 1 700 out of 3 000 websites, associated with online pharmacies suspected of selling illicit medicines and medical devices, contained cyber threats, especially phishing and spamming malware.
“To avoid falling victim to online scams, it is important to be vigilant, be sceptical and be safe, as offers which appear too good to be true usually are,” Interpol said.
“Always check with your national health authorities or the World Health Organisation for the latest health advice in relation to COVID-19,”