A garda chief has warned the public to be wary of criminals using Covid-19 to scam people out of money online when buying hand sanitisers and surgical masks.
Police forces around the world have been reporting incidents of fraud where criminals are sending dodgy emails advertising supplies which help keep the coronavirus at bay.
There are also reports of phishing emails being sent around purporting to have details of people in your area who have been infected with the contagious disease.
Detective Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan told Independent.ie that while no such incidents have yet occurred in Ireland, it is inevitable the scam will be used by fraudsters here.
“We are seeing adverts saying you can buy 20 bottles of hand sanitiser for a fiver being put out by fake companies,” he said.
“We are also seeing phishing emails claiming your latest shipment has been delayed due to the coronavirus and asking people to open the attachment for an update, which subsequently has malware attached.
“In one case in the UK, someone lost around €20,000,” he added.
Superintendent Lordan said criminals are capitalising on the coronavirus in the same way that touts use ticket shortages for big GAA games and concerts to try and scam people out of money.
Mr Lordan, a guest speaker at the International Fraud Prevention Conference in Croke Park on Wednesday, said some criminals are even claiming to be officials from the World Health Organisation.
“They are pretending to be from CDC or WHO and saying they’ve compiled a list of people within your region who have the virus and asking you to open the attachment.
“Make sure you know who you’re talking to before giving private details. Nobody from a reputable company will ring you asking for private or bank details.”
Superintendent Lordan also says he expects a new garda anti-fraud coordination unit to be established this year.
Plans for the unit, which were announced last year, will see a unit being dealt up specifically to deal with reports of fraud.
“What some of people are telling us is they’re sending reports into local garda stations and they’re not being dealt with.
“The unit will handle all complaints and then dish them out to various investigating officers.”
School psychologists have issued advice for teachers and parents about how to talk to children and young people about coronavirus, including the need to provide factual information on an age appropriate basis.