The operation was carried out by Europol, NCA, and Interpol, etc.
A joint investigation by Europol, Interpol, and the UK, Irish, German, and the Netherlands’ financial institutions and authorities has resulted in foiling Coronavirus face mask scam to cheat German health authorities.
It all started when it was revealed that German health authorities needed face masks considering their ever-increasing demand amidst the Coronavirus outbreak. Hence, in mid-march, the authorities contacted a Spanish sales company via its website to buy face masks worth 15 million Euros ($16 million).
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They, however, didn’t know that this was a fake website. They were told that the company can only provide 10 million masks and referred the authorities to one of its Trusted Supplier based in Ireland.
The authorities were guided by an Irish middleman who promised to connect them with another supplier based in the Netherlands. They collectively signed a Contractual Agreement for the delivery of 1.5 million face masks after receiving an up-front payment of 15million Euros.
The authorities didn’t know that they were dealing with scammers and their authentic email IDs were already compromised. They initiated the money transfer to Ireland and started preparing for the delivery of face masks from the warehouse in the Netherlands to Germany, which required using 52 lorries and police escort.
However, right before the delivery date, the sellers informed them that the funds haven’t been received and the buyers urgently sent EUR 880,000 to the Dutch supplier to prevent order cancellation. So, now they had paid an additional amount to the sellers.
Despite paying the sellers, the masks never arrived. When they contacted the Dutch firm, they were informed that there wasn’t any such order placed with the firm. Suspecting foul play the German health authorities informed Europol.
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The organization utilized all possible resources including financial intelligence, Camden Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network (CARIN), and Europol Financial Intelligence Public-Private Partnership (EFIPPP). It turned out that the Dutch company did exist but the website was a fake one created to carry out financial frauds.
The Irish Bank and National Central Bureau in Dublin were contacted by Interpol to track the funds. Through Europol, and the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau’s timely intervention, the UK bank could recall the €500 000 million euros that the scammers tried to transfer to an account in Nigeria via a UK bank while the rest of the €125,000 were recovered from a Dutch bank account.
Multi-million face mask scam foiled by 🇩🇪 🇮🇪 🇳🇱 🇬🇧 authorities: criminals attempted to cheat health authorities by selling them 10 million non-existent face masks.#Europol and @INTERPOL_HQ supported this case. #CoronaCrimes #COVID19
Press release: https://t.co/iC8CYGJuLH pic.twitter.com/jwUD2NMMgo
— Europol (@Europol) April 14, 2020
The funds were returned to the Netherlands and were frozen by the authorities. The Irish firm involved in the fraud was also identified and a 48-year old Irish citizen was questioned by the authorities while two individuals have been arrested in connection with the €880,000 transfer.
Coronavirus online scams are increasing:
While Coronavirus related infections are surging, cybercriminals are using the pandemic for their benefit at its best. Just yesterday it was reported that hackers have been selling authentic Zoom accounts on the dark web. Meanwhile, Coronavirus related scams on the Internet such as malware-infected live-maps, and fake vaccines are also at peak.
Just yesterday, the National Crime Agency (NCA) in the United Kingdom revealed arresting of a pharmacist and surveyor in the country for illegally selling coronavirus testing kits. The NCA also seized thousands of pounds and took down the website set up by the duo.
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