Despite the enormous suffering and strain the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic has put on Nigerians, criminal gangs are on the prowl across cyber space, looking for unsuspecting victims. According to the Nigeria Police Force, citizens must be wary of these unscrupulous elements in order not to fall for their antics. The Police handed down this admonition today in statement released by the Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), Frank Mba. The statement urged citizens 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.”
The FPRO said the call for vigilance was informed by intelligence at the disposal of the Police to the effect that incidents of fraud and cybercrime could rise due to the lockdown of cities. The statement said: “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 (covid-19) medical products. 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.”
The Police therefore enjoined citizens to observe a range of security tips, including avoid opening suspicious emails and clicking on links in unrecognized emails and attachments. Law enforcement equally called on citizens to ensure proper back-up of online and offline files regularly and securely, use strong passwords for securing your emails and social media handles, update of software, including antivirus software, and reviewing social media privacy and security settings.
“You are advised to be wary of 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. You are advised to ignore and report calls purportedly emanating from a caller who pretends to be a relative currently being treated at hospital asking you to pay for the cost of the medical treatment by transferring money or by paying cash to fake public health representatives. Do not open letters or emails related to the pandemic from unknown persons who claim to be health authorities. 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.”
On the role played by fake news purveyors, the Police warned residents to be mindful of misinformation and disinformation and to avoid circulating unverified messages on their social media handles. Mba said to check the activities of these criminal syndicates the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu has placed the Commissioner of Police in charge of the Interpol National Central Bureau (NCB), Abuja 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 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,” he said.