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COVID-19: ‘Beware of Scammers’ — Police Warn

There are criminals on the prowl, desperate to feed on the emergency situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Nigeria Police has warned that fraudsters are on the loose and scheming to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to swindle the unsuspecting members of the public.

In a statement released on Sunday and signed by the Police Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, the Police warned Nigerians to be vigilant and take precautionary measures “against criminal elements who might explore the emergency situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic to increase and diversify their criminal activities.”

The Police reports that its statement was anchored on intelligence gathered which links the lockdown across cities and states with heightened desperation by criminal elements to perpetrate more fraud and cybercrime activities.

“Specifically, intelligence obtained from the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) Headquarters shows that scammers in Nigeria and other parts of the globe have begun to create and set up fraudulent websites, e-commerce platforms, fake social media accounts and emails claiming to sell and deliver (COVID-19) medical products,” the statement said.

Some of the scammers pass off as prominent companies in the business of producing and distributing critically needed medical and pharmaceutical products required in the fight against the pandemic, and were likely to lure their victims to swiftly make bank transfers as a condition for delivery.

Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, has urged the public to avoid opening suspicious emails, links and attachments. He noted that they should properly and regularly back-up online and offline files, and make use of strong passwords in securing emails and social media accounts.

The Police also advised the public to install antivirus software on their devices, review privacy settings on social media, be wary of the use of prominent companies to create fraudulent websites and to report calls from callers pretending to be relatives asking for financial help to be treated for the virus.

Nigerians are expected to desist from opening letters or emails about the pandemic from unknown persons, be mindful of fake news and to educate their families on ways to stay safe online and offline.

The IGP has charged the Commissioner of Police heading INTERPOL’s National Central Bureau to be on “red alert and work closely with other countries in ethically monitoring the Internet.”

He said, “this is to engender concerted efforts in cracking down on any individual or all forms of organised criminal gangs that may want to take advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to perpetrate crimes.

“The Force also enjoins commercial bank operators to strengthen their online banking security systems and report promptly any suspected case of fraud and other cybercrime-related activities in their banks.

“While reaffirming the determination of the Nigeria Police Force in providing support services to relevant agencies saddled with the task of curtailing and containing the COVID-19 pandemic, the IGP assures the public that the Force is unrelenting in clamping down on criminals who may want to take advantage of the situation to perpetrate criminal acts,” Adamu said.

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'Kunle Adebajo

Head of Investigations at HumAngle. ‘Kunle covers conflict alongside its many intricacies and fallouts. He also writes about disinformation, the environment, and human rights. He's won a couple of journalism awards, including the 2021 Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Journalism, the 2022 African Fact-checking Award, and the 2023 Michael Elliott Award for Excellence in African Storytelling.

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