The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) has issued a global alert warning that criminal groups are trying to defraud governments with fake offers to sell COVID-19 vaccines.
According to a release on INTERPOL’s official website, the alert follows some 60 cases in 40 countries around the world where individuals in health ministries and hospitals have 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 are targeting both professional and personal email accounts of potential buyers, as well as making contact via phone, the release noted.
“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,” it disclosed.
The release quoted INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock as saying that 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,” the INTERPOL official observed.
“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,” he explained.
Stock also said that 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.
INTERPOL revealed that criminals have 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.