Twenty-three people were charged with bogus practices in selling COVID-19 protective materials, including face masks, after police organized a joint operation in Romania, Ireland, and the Netherlands. The operation was launched upon various complaints regarding the sale of said protective materials that weren’t delivered or processed by the bogus sellers. Ten of these were also detained and are about to face legal ramifications regarding their involvement in the bogus selling of COVID-19 protective materials.
Europol noted several African nationals involved in the criminal organization responsible for generating email accounts and websites simulated as real wholesale companies.
These organized crime groups impersonated companies, mostly Asian and European manufacturing firms, tricking victims into placing orders and requiring advance payments before goods were to be delivered. Interpol also noted that some email addresses were linked to major protective materials manufacturers in Spain and were relayed through a chain of referrals that would lead buyers to transact with someone in the Netherlands, then with an Irish dealer, and then with other “bogus” suppliers around the continent.
However, such orders were not processed, and payments were laundered to several bank account networks that the said crime group controlled.
European law enforcement agencies also reported how these criminals were able to withdraw the money gained from the bogus face mask sale, which involved using spurious identifications from Romanian, Polish, and Ukrainian accounts. The withdrawal was also made via the ATMs to avoid being identified while moving their income from scams.
Eurojust also released a statement on Wednesday where thirty-four searches were conducted against the said organized crime group. It has also pointed out how this crime group has defrauded one million euros, approximately USD 1.2 million, from companies in twenty countries. The said searches were done by police offices across Europe who received complaints regarding the fraud sales and monitored crime groups involved in fraudulent merchandise activities.
It was also noted that the said crime group has already been involved in fraudulent selling through online transactions. It has targeted unsuspecting victims who were offered fictitious products like wood pellets, medicines, and other online merchandise.
With the ongoing pandemic, the criminals have devised a special business model to lure victims into buying products thinking they’re from legitimate companies. They have also redesigned their websites and web hosts to delude known online sellers and retail companies to collect payment for sales that will never be processed or delivered. Like their previous scams, they require advance payment to process orders, which weren’t processed and delivered.
Europol and many law enforcement agencies across Europe are now alerting the force on online monitoring of scammers and fraud sellers. They also advise the public to be mindful of their online purchases, especially if such transactions involve asking for advance payments or requesting credit card details. Interpol has also posted an article on how these criminals work and how they were taking advantage of the increasing demand for face masks and other COVID-19 protective materials during the coronavirus pandemic.