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FATF cautions individuals about sophisticated COVID-19 scams

By Elizabeth Hearst

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has warned that criminals have been impersonating government officials with the intent of “obtaining personal banking information” during COVID-19. 

In a report published in May, the international watchdog on money laundering and terrorism issued a stark warning against criminals who may be using the current pandemic as a way to profit. 

FATF’s warning comes after Interpol released a report into COVID-19 fraud and criminality in March 2020. One of the scams included criminals phoning victims to declare that their relative was hospitalized. They would then ask for money for a medical procedure to be completed. 

FATF has also warned that counterfeiting of essential goods such as medical supplies and medication has increased during the pandemic. These scams have taken place in the United States, Singapore and Europe, with an increase of “false and misleading COVID-19 treatment claims” also noted online. 

Similarly, there has been a marked increase in the number of email and SMS phishing attacks through spam campaigns in recent months. This highly sophisticated phishing campaign has even seen scammers impersonate the World Health Organisation (WHO), through text message, with the hopes of luring individuals to part with their personal information. 

The increased number of individuals who are now working from home has also provided scammers with an opportunity to insert ransomware on their computer or mobile devices. Furthermore, criminals have also been accused of targeting hospitals and medical institutions to gain access to private information during COVID-19. 


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