Interpol issues global alert against Covid fraud

Spain has donated 50 million vaccines to help developing countries fight against the pandemic

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Interpol has issued a global alert for organised crime groups attempting to defraud governments with fake offers to sell Covid-19 vaccines.

The warning follows some 60 cases in 40 countries around the world where individuals in health ministries and hospitals have received offers for Covid-19 vaccines approved for distribution in their country.

Usually claiming to represent a vaccine manufacturer or a government agency facilitating the distribution of vaccines, the scammers are targeting both professional and personal email accounts of potential buyers, as well as making contact via phone.

Modus operandi

The Interpol alert, issued to all 194 member countries, is based on information provided by vaccine manufacturers and highlights the types of modus operandi used in the attempted scams, including the use of fake social media accounts and websites.

Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock said the alert underlined the importance of public/private sector cooperation.

“As we see with cybercrime, usually it is the private sector which has the most information about attacks and trends, which is exactly what has happened with these attempted vaccine scams,” he said on August 16.

“Even when a fraud fails, it is important that it is reported to the police so that potential links can be identified and also, as in the case of the alert Interpol has issued, to warn law enforcement about these threats.

“With the ongoing pandemic and efforts of countries to safely and quickly vaccinate their citizens, it is vital that the roll-out process is protected from manufacture to delivery,” he added.

Task force

Issued under the umbrella of the Interpol Global Financial Crime Task Force (IGFCTF), the alert is the most recent in a series of warnings issued in relation to Covid-related crime threats.

Criminals have exploited every stage of the pandemic. From creating websites and social media accounts claiming to sell protective equipment and medical supplies to the manufacture and distribution of fake vaccines as well as ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure.

Launched in 2020, the IGFCTF is aimed at enhancing international cooperation and innovation between the public and private sector with a focus on cyber-enabled fraud, money laundering schemes and Covid-related crimes.

This latest alert follows the joint Interpol and the United States’ Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) warning to the public against purchasing alleged Covid-19 vaccines and treatments online earlier this year.

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Deirdre Tynan

Deirdre Tynan is an award-winning journalist who enjoys bringing the best in news reporting to Spain’s largest English-language newspaper, Euro Weekly News. She has previously worked at The Mirror, Ireland on Sunday and for news agencies, media outlets and international organisations in America, Europe and Asia. A huge fan of British politics and newspapers, Deirdre is equally fascinated by the political scene in Madrid and Sevilla. She moved to Spain in 2018 and is based in Jaen.