Europol anticipates a market for counterfeit vaccines against COVID-19

The European police office, Europol, expects that the discovery of an effective vaccine against coronavirus will lead to a market for false copies of this immunization, said director of that entity, Catherine de Bolle, on Monday.

In an appearance before the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Commission, De Bolle noted that "the sale of fraudulent and substandard products is booming in the pandemic economy" via the internet, both in the usual sales channels and in the called "dark web" ("dark web").

"We anticipate that when there is a vaccine ready (against COVID-19), criminals will use this opportunity to sell counterfeit vaccines," explained the Europol director.

De Bolle pointed out to the MEPs that they have detected increases in the demand for counterfeit products that claim to prevent, treat or cure the coronavirus, as well as "certain types of medical devices", such as protective equipment or tests to detect whether the disease has passed.

"We suspect that the majority of pharmaceuticals and active ingredients sold in the EU originate from India and China. Both are countries with a significant chemical pharmaceutical industry, both legal and illicit," he added.

The Europol director noted that, after a videoconference meeting with the Chinese authorities to address this situation, they have agreed to increase cooperation between the two entities to tackle this type of fraud.

Regarding other types of crime, the director of Europol pointed to a decrease in home robberies but warned that those of medical equipment and products have increased, for example, from trucks coming from airports.

De Bolle also warned of an increase in door-to-door crime, with people posing as plumbers to enter a home or, in a phenomenon he declared novel, pretending to be "decontaminants" to disinfect a home from the virus.

These scams usually target houses where older people live.

Regarding online crime, De Bolle noted that "phishing" has been sophisticated since the start of the pandemic, going from "simple emails" to "much more complex attacks" with more diverse objectives.

"We have all moved increasingly towards the online world and so have criminals, who have been extremely quick to take advantage of the situation," warned the director of Europol, who noted that, for example, the distribution of malicious programs ("malware") through video conferencing tools.


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