Interpol has issued a notice to police forces around the world about various scams that have sprung up which take advantage of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Lyon, France-based international policing body also appealed to the public to be vigilant when buying medical supplies online.
Interpol warned scammers have set up bogus online stores, as well as used social media accounts and email addresses to rip off people who think they are buying face masks and other equipment.
The organisation said: “Monetary losses reported to INTERPOL have been as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars in a single case, and these crimes are crossing international borders.’’
Scams also include criminals, posing as health officials, calling people to tell them that a relative has fallen ill with COVID-19 and seeking payment for treatment on their behalf.
Other victims have received so-called phishing emails, supposedly from health authorities that trick them into providing payment credentials or opening an attachment containing malware.
Interpol secretary general Juergen Stock said: “Criminals are exploiting the fear and uncertainty created by COVID-19 to prey on innocent citizens who are only looking to protect their health and that of their loved ones.’
“Anyone who is thinking of buying medical supplies online should take a moment and verify that you are in fact dealing with a legitimate, reputable company, otherwise your money could be lost to unscrupulous criminals.’’
Interpol said that so far it has assisted national police forces with 30 COVID-19-related scams linked to Asia and Europe.
It said so far it has blocked 18 bank accounts and freeze more than 730,000 dollars in suspected fraudulent transactions.