Stay Alert: Examples of Covid-19 related scams
Examples of Covid-19 related scams detected in other jurisdictions which typically we would expect to see reaching Ireland in due course:
UK National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB)
- Updated figures from the UK’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) show there have been 105 reports of Covid-19 related since 1 February 2020, with total losses reaching nearly £970,000.
- The first report relating to COVID-19 was received on 9 February. There were 20 more reports that month. Since then, there have been 46 reports between the 1 March and 13 March, and 38 reports in just four days (14 March – 18 March).
Scams being reported by NFIB:
- The majority of reports are related to online shopping scams where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser, and other products, which have never arrived. One victim reported losing over £15k when they purchased face masks that were never delivered. Reporting numbers are expected to rise as the virus continues to spread across the world.
- Other frauds being reported include ticket fraud, romance fraud, charity fraud and lender loan fraud.
- Over 200 reports of coronavirus-themed phishing emails have been reported. These attempt to trick people into opening malicious attachments which could lead to fraudsters stealing people’s personal information, email logins and passwords, and banking details.
Some of the tactics being used in phishing emails include:
- Fraudsters purporting to be from a research group that mimic the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO). They claim to provide the victim with a list of active infections in their area but to access this information the victim needs to either: click on a link which redirects them to a credential-stealing page; or make a donation of support in the form of a payment into a Bitcoin account.
- Fraudsters providing articles about the virus outbreak with a link to a fake company website where victims are encouraged to click to subscribe to a daily newsletter for further updates.
- Fraudsters sending investment scheme and trading advice encouraging people to take advantage of the coronavirus downturn.
- Fraudsters purporting to be from Revenue and Customs offering a tax refund and directing victims to a fake website to harvest their personal and financial details. The emails often display the Revenue and Customs logo making it look reasonably genuine and convincing
COVID -19 Scam purporting to be from the NHS in relation to a tax refund scheme/programme
- To date, INTERPOL has assisted with some 30 COVID-19 related fraud scam cases with links to Asia and Europe, leading to the blocking of 18 bank accounts and freezing of more than USD 730,000 in suspected fraudulent transactions.
- INTERPOL is encouraging the public to exercise caution when buying medical supplies online during the current health crisis, with criminals capitalizing on the situation to run a range of financial scams.
- With surgical masks and other medical supplies in high demand yet difficult to find in retail stores as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, fake shops, websites, social media accounts and email addresses claiming to sell these items have sprung up online. But instead of receiving the promised masks and supplies, unsuspecting victims have seen their money disappear into the hands of the criminals involved.
COVID-19 fraud schemes reported by INTERPOL
- 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. In many cases, the fraudsters impersonate legitimate companies, using similar names, websites and email addresses in their attempt to trick unsuspecting members of the public, even reaching out proactively via emails and messages on social media platforms.
Blocking and recovering fraudulent payments
- Monetary loses reported to INTERPOL have been as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars in a single case, and these crimes are crossing international borders.
- INTERPOL’s Financial Crimes Unit is receiving information from member countries on a near-daily basis regarding fraud cases and requests to assist with stopping fraudulent payments. Targeted victims have primarily been located in Asia, but the criminals have used bank accounts located in other regions such as Europe, to appear as legitimate accounts linked to the company which is being impersonated.
- In one case, a victim in Asia made payments to several bank accounts unknowingly controlled by criminals in multiple European countries. With INTERPOL’s assistance, national authorities were able to block some of the payments, but others were quickly transferred by the criminals to second and even third bank accounts before they could be traced and blocked.
Fake emails/email scams set out below which are doing the rounds: