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Criminals exploiting COVID-19: Europol

Sale of counterfeit hygiene products, cybercrime, burglaries on the rise, warns police agency

Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak   | 27.03.2020
Criminals exploiting COVID-19: Europol

ANKARA

Fraudsters are taking advantage of the global health crisis due to coronavirus, the EU’s police agency said Friday

“Criminals have been quick to seize opportunities to exploit the crisis by adapting their modi operandi or engaging in new criminal activities,” said Europol in a recent report.

Europol shed light on four main categories of crimes: cybercrime, fraud, counterfeit and substandard goods, and organized property crime.

As people stay at home to avert the spread of the virus, some criminal activities seem “less visible”.

Europol said fraudsters especially benefit from the increased demand of products such as protective equipment and disinfectants, which are hard to find in the markets at this point.

“The sale of counterfeit healthcare and sanitary products as well as personal protective equipment and counterfeit pharmaceutical products has increased manifold since the outbreak of the crisis,” said the statement.

Catherine De Bolle, Europol’s executive director, said that while many people are helping out victims of the crisis, criminals are exploiting it.

“This is unacceptable: such criminal activities during a public health crisis are particularly threatening and can carry real risks to human lives,” she added.

According to the report, burglars enter the homes by impersonating as medical staff providing information material or hygiene products or conducting a COVID-19 test.

Europol also warned against cyber-fraud cases while many people are working from home.

After emerging in Wuhan, China last December, coronavirus has spread to at least 176 countries and regions.

More than 551,000 people have tested positive worldwide, with the death toll above 24,900 and over 127,000 recoveries, according to the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

The World Health Organization has declared Europe the new epicenter of the virus.

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