INTERPOL cautions Caribbean governments against buying fake COVID vaccines

By Rumi Samuel Published on August 21, 2021
INTERPOL cautions Caribbean governments against buying fake COVID vaccines

The International Police (INTERPOL) has issued a warning to all of its 194 member countries, including those in the Caribbean, to alert organized crime groups seeking to defraud governments by making false promises to sell coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines. 

In its global alert, INTERPOL said that at least 60 cases in 40 countries worldwide had been reported where individuals in health ministries and hospitals had 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 target both professional and personal email accounts of potential buyers and make contact via phone.

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 Jürgen 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.”

“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,” Stock said.

The alert, issued under the INTERPOL Global Financial Crime Task Force (IGFCTF), umbrella, is the most recent in a series of warnings issued concerning COVID-related crime threats.

INTERPOL said criminals had 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 aims to enhance international cooperation and innovation between the public and private sectors focusing 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.

Since then, INTERPOL has issued instructions on how people should protect their personal and online security.

Rumi Samuel

Rumi Samuel

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