COVID-19: IGP cautions members of public on emerging crime trends

•reels out security tips

The Inspector-General of Police, IGP Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, on Sunday, warned the members of the public to remain vigilant and take precautionary actions against criminal elements who might explore the emergency situation created by the Covid-19 pandemic to increase and diversify their criminal activities in the country.

This was contained in a statement made available to newsmen in Abuja by the Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), Frank Mba, a deputy commissioner of Police (DCP).

The statement said that the warning became necessary as the available intelligence at the disposal of the Force suggested that fraud and cybercrime were expected to rise at this time owing to the lockdown emplaced by Government at all levels to contain the spreading of the deadly disease.

According to the statement, “specifically, intelligence obtained from the 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 coronavirus (COVID-19) medical products

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“In some cases, they use the names of prominent companies involved in the production and distribution of these items. Victims are then asked to pay via bank transfer”.

It stated that consequently, the IGP has, therefore, enjoined the public to strictly adhere to the following security tips:

Avoid opening suspicious emails and clicking on links in unrecognized emails and attachments, ensure proper back-up of online and offline files regularly and securely, use strong passwords for securing your emails and social media handles; keep your software updated, including antivirus software; manage your social media settings and review your privacy and security settings.

Others are: be wary scammers who use names of prominent companies to create fraudulent websites, e-commerce platforms, social media accounts and emails claiming to sell and deliver medical products, ignore and report calls purportedly emanating from a caller who pretends to be a relative currently being treated at the hospital asking you to pay for the cost of the medical treatment by transferring money or by paying cash to fake public health representatives; avoid opening of letters or emails related to the pandemic from unknown persons who claim to be health authorities as often times criminals access sensitive information, steal personal information and steal funds of victims by tricking them into connecting to a specific webpage and logging-in with their credentials.

The statement further warned the members of the public to be mindful of fake news, deliberate misinformation/disinformation and to avoid circulating untrusted and unverified messages on social media handles while members of the family, especially the kids should be properly educated about how to stay safe online and offline at this critical period and advised that incase anyone fell victim, it should be promptly reported at the nearest police formation.

According to the statement, following this development, the IGP “has placed the Commissioner of Police in charge of the Interpol National Central Bureau (NCB), Abuja – Nigeria on red alert

“The NCB which houses the cybercrime unit of the Force shall in the coming days and beyond work closely with other Interpol member states across the globe particularly to carry out intense monitoring of the internet highway in the most legitimate and ethical manner.

“This is to engender concerted efforts in cracking down on any individual or all forms of organized criminal gangs that may want to take advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to perpetrate crimes”.

The Force also enjoined 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 assured the public that the Force was unrelenting in clamping down on criminals who might want to take advantage of the situation to perpetrate criminal acts in the country.

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