Mafia groups will likely try to disrupt the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, international police organization Interpol warned Wednesday.
In one declaration, the group warned its 194 member countries to be on high alert for organized crime networks trying to infiltrate supply chains to get their hands on the vaccine. They also warned against selling fraudulent products coronavirus vaccines.
“Criminal networks will also target unsuspecting members of the public through bogus websites and fake medicine, which could pose a significant risk to their health and even their lives,” said Interpol General Secretary Jürgen Stock.
“It is essential that law enforcement is as prepared as possible for what will be an attack of all types of criminal activity related to the COVID-19 vaccine, which is why Interpol has issued this global warning.”
The warning comes as health authorities US and elsewhere review many vaccines that have been developed. The UK on Wednesday became the first Western country to officially authorize a vaccine, giving the green light to the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, whose trials have been proven to be safe and 95% effective in blocking COVID-19.
Last month, Interpol issued a warning about the risk of real COVID-19 vaccines being trafficked, advising law enforcement agencies around the world to start preparing immediately to prevent such crimes.
“Strong demand combined with a limited supply will make COVID-19 vaccines the equivalent of liquid gold to organized crime networks as soon as they become available,” Stock said.
There is also a risk that fake COVID-19 tests will be sold, the organization added, as the need for testing will likely increase as international travel begins to pick up.
Interpol has already warned the public against counterfeit drugs and other medical articles, which she noted had become of particular concern during the pandemic.
On Wednesday, the group said an analysis it conducted showed that “of 3,000 websites associated with online pharmacies suspected of selling illicit drugs and medical devices, about 1,700 contained cyberthreats, in particular phishing and spam malware ”.
In Wednesday’s warning, he also noted that the pandemic had already “triggered unprecedented opportunistic and predatory criminal behavior.”
There was one increase in cybercrime, Interpol said in August, with businesses and governments the main targets. The widespread shift of business operations from offices to online services has led to a sharp increase in phishing, malware, online scams and disinformation.
Throughout the pandemic, many cases of opportunists took advantage of the moment to commit fraud and price of gouge masks.
In March, as COVID-19 began to spread in the United States, law enforcement agencies across the country issued warnings about crooks knocking on people pretending to be CDC officials and offer to test people for money.