The RCIPS Financial Crime Investigation Unit is highlighting findings by the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that fraud and cybercrime has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, with criminals taking advantage of the pandemic to lure their victims to provide personal information or to part with their money. The public is advised to remain vigilant in regards to the below types of activity:
The FATF has reported that there has been an increase in criminals impersonating government officials to try to obtain personal banking information or physical cash from victims. Other criminals have advertised themselves as selling essential goods, including medical supplies and medicines. They ask for payment in advance but never deliver the goods. In other cases, the goods are delivered but they are either counterfeit or they are ineffective, including some criminals selling products that are marketed as miracle cures for COVID-19.
People should also be aware of fundraising appeals by fake charities. Some of these charities, particularly those based overseas, could be fronts for terrorist financing. In the Cayman Islands, charities must be registered with the Registrar of Companies; persons seeking to make charitable donations should check the registration status of charities online at www.ciregistry.ky.
The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has also led to an increase in investment scams, for example recommendations for people to invest in small companies that have found a cure or prevention mechanism for the virus.
In addition, because of restricted access to physical banks, people are using online banking platforms more often. As a result, there has been a reported increase in some countries of online bank fraud, where criminals attempt to gain access to the victims' banking passwords or account information. Members of the public are encouraged to be alert to such scams and report any suspicious activity to the RCIPS.
Finally, the public should be aware of an increase in email and phishing attacks which involve criminals trying to insert malware on personal computers. For example, a person might receive an email that appears to come from a legitimate health or community service organization that asks that person to either reveal personal information or to click on a link sent in the email. Clicking the link could allow the criminal to steal information from the person’s computer.
"Everyone needs to remain vigilant and do their research to make sure that any email requesting money or information is legitimate,” says Detective Chief Inspector Richard Barrow, of the Cayman Islands Bureau of Financial Investigations. “This is especially true now, as people more than ever share personal information online and between various groups and persons, including personal financial information and work related confidential information, as the world tries to pursue business as usual in a remote manner."