Three new frauds and scams arising from the coronavirus pandemic
While the world’s economies suffer and millions of businesses have had to close their doors due to the global health crisis generated by Covid-19, there are those who have taken advantage of the pandemic to make an economic profit.
These are criminal groups in various corners of the globe who have found new illegal ways to make money.
Some of these criminals deceive their victims by taking advantage of the confusion, misinformation and despair of many amid the pandemic.
Others offer forgeries that allow you to violate some of the restrictions imposed by the authorities in many countries.
Here we tell you three of the main frauds and scams that have emerged in recent times around the coronavirus.
1. False test results
Many countries require anyone who wants to travel there to undergo a laboratory test to verify that they are not infected with the virus that causes covid-19.
The requirement to show a certificate with a negative result has led to a lucrative business of selling falsified results.
Difficulties or delays in accessing tests, their high cost in some places and the urgency or laziness of some people who want to travel, have led to the business of fake tests to flourish.
Security agencies have disrupted networks of certificate forgers at Charles de Gaulle airport, in the French capital, and at Luton airport, in the United Kingdom.
Also the National Police of Spain arrested at least one person who offered false test results.
In the Netherlands, several social media accounts such as WhatsApp and Snapchat were identified with names such as Vliegtuig Arts (the plane doctor) or Digitale Dokter (the digital doctor) offering false certificates.
The newspaper El País of Spain recently denounced that this business also proliferates in some tourist areas of Mexico, where apocryphal tests are sold for less than US $ 40.
And in Chile, the health authorities closed in January a medical center located in the affluent Las Condes commune, in Santiago, that falsified the results of tests supposedly carried out in exchange for US $ 85.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) acknowledged that this is “a growing problem around the world.”
The agency noted that part of the problem is that paper certificates can be easily manipulated because they come in different formats and languages, which “leads to inefficiencies in health checks, errors and fraud.”
For its part, the European Police Office, Europol, indicated that “the proliferation of high-precision technological means, be it printers or different software programs, facilitates the circulation of fraudulent documents.”
Europol, which this week alerted the European Union to a ring of certificate forgers called the Rathkeale Rovers Mobile Organized Crime Group, allegedly of Irish origin, admitted that the problem is difficult to combat.
“As long as there are limitations to travel due to covid-19, the production and sale of false certificates is likely to continue,” said spokespersons for the institution.
2. The vaccine deception
Since the pandemic began, there have been scammers who sought to profit from the fear generated by the disease by offering false cures and remedies.
Teas, essential oils, and intravenous vitamin C therapies are just a few of the purported antiviral treatments that continue to be sold in clinics, online sites, social media, and television shows.
But the development of vaccines against the coronavirus, which have already begun to be distributed and applied in various parts of the world, has generated a new form of scam.
It consists of demanding money in exchange for being on a presumed list to receive the precious immunization, whose doses are limited.
There are also those who falsely claim to sell some of the vaccines developed.
The Federal Trade Commission of the United States (FTC, for its acronym in English) warned that this fraud is spreading in that country due to the complexities of the vaccine distribution system, which varies by state or territory.
“Always ready to act scammers are taking advantage of the confusion,” said Colleen Tressler, consumer education specialist at the FTC.
To avoid fraud, the agency remembers that you cannot pay to sign up for the vaccine.
“Anyone who asks you to pay to put your name on a list, to make an appointment for you or reserve a place in line is a scammer,” he warns.
It also recommends ignoring ads for the sale of coronavirus vaccines.
“You can’t buy it anywhere. The vaccine is only available at federal and state approved locations,” he says.
3. The “corona-phishing”
The creation of fake businesses, offering non-existent products through online sites, social networks, emails and calls, with the intention of obtaining the bank details of those who fall into the trap, has exploded since the pandemic began.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also had to issue a warning last March to alert that cybercriminals were posing as representatives of the organization to obtain false donations and steal identity data.
But while at first this form of crime, known as “phishing”, focused on false charity campaigns or the alleged sale of products in high demand, such as face masks, alcohol gel or disinfectants, over time the scams became more sophisticated.
In Argentina, some banks had to close their profiles on social networks after criminals used information collected there to empty the accounts of some clients.
Criminals contacted people who had used the networks to report a problem with their account, given the impossibility of attending the banks, which for many months remained closed to the public during the quarantine.
Posing as bank representatives, the criminals managed to obtain the victim’s account details. Before emptying it through online banking, they asked for a pre-agreed loan.
Thus, the victims not only lost all the money in their accounts. They were also in debt, in some cases for amounts well above their income.
Another form of common scam in countries where state aid is granted is that of calls from people who claim to be government managers. In reality, these are scammers who seek information to steal those payments.
Last January, the US FTC reported that it had received more than 225,000 consumer complaints related to this type of fraud. In total, it is estimated that more than US $ 309 million in financial assistance ended up in the hands of criminals.
The agency has also warned of another form of scam: fake contact trackers.
They are people who call their victims and tell them that they were with someone who tested positive for covid.
They recommend that they take a test as soon as possible and offer them a free home test, but they tell them that, to receive it, they must give them their credit card number to cover the shipping costs.
According to authorities, these scammers tend to target minorities and seniors.
Security experts say the key to avoiding these traps is to remember that no bank, state agency, or health institute contacts people asking for confidential information.
“It is possible that (criminals) will contact you by phone, email, text messages, mail or social networks,” warns the US government page dedicated to “Common Scams and Frauds.”
“Protect your money and your identity by not sharing personal information like your bank account number, Social Security number or date of birth,” he advises.
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BBC-NEWS-SRC: https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-55927424, IMPORTING DATE: 2021-02-09 11:40:03