With Europe fighting the coronavirus pandemic, criminals are exploiting people’s fear, uncertainty and a shortage of certain goods, which has led to a rise in several types of crime, the European law enforcement agency Europol warned in a recent advisory.
“Criminals have been quick to seize opportunities to exploit the crisis by adapting their modi operandi or engaging in new criminal activities”, the report says.
Cybercrime remains the most prevalent but many criminals are also resorting to selling counterfeit medical supplies or simply accepting payment for medical supplies the never actually deliver.
Online, criminals have used the coronavirus crisis to carry out social engineering attacks themed around the pandemic to distribute various malware packages.
Cybercriminals are also likely to seek to exploit an increasing number of attack vectors as a greater number of employers switch to teleworking and allow connections to their organizations’ systems.
Recently, the Czech Republic reported a cyberattack on Brno University Hospital which forced the hospital to shut down its entire IT network, postpone urgent surgical interventions and re-route new acute patients to a nearby hospital.
The report also warns that fraudsters have been very quick to adapt well-known schemes to capitalize on the anxieties and fears of victims throughout the crisis. These include various types of adapted versions of telephone fraud schemes, supply scams and decontamination scams.
Europol coordinated an investigation into a fraud scheme in which there was a €6.6 million transfer to a company in Singapore in order to purchase alcohol gels and FFP3/2 masks, but the goods never arrived.
The sale of counterfeit healthcare and sanitary products, personal protective equipment and counterfeit pharmaceutical products has increased manifold since the outbreak of the crisis. Between March 3 and March 10, over 34,000 counterfeit surgical masks were seized by law enforcement authorities worldwide as part of Operation PANGEA supported by Europol.
There have also been many cases of theft using coronavirus as a pretext to gain entry to private properties. Several EU member states have reported that perpetrators gain access to private homes by impersonating medical staff providing information, material or hygiene products, or by conducting a fake “corona test”.
Title image: Europol headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands (source: Wikimedia Commons)