Interpol, the international criminal police organisation, has warned law enforcement agencies across the world to exercise caution and beware of Covid-19 contaminated letters that could target political figures.
According to its latest guidelines, Interpol has warned all law enforcement agencies, including those in India, to consider increasing their monitoring based on the various modus operandi, which refer to deliberate acts with an actual risk of contamination spread (such acts should be further assessed on a case-by-case basis).
"Instances of individuals spitting and coughing in the faces of law enforcement officers, health practitioners and essential workers to intimidate them. This could represent a risk if these individuals are infected with Covid-19," the guidelines said.
"Attempts at deliberate contamination by spitting and coughing on surfaces and objects have been reported. Despite limited risk, a few cases of threatening letters allegedly contaminated with Covid-19 targeted political figures. This modus operandi could also target other vulnerable groups," it said.
The international agency said that certain infected individuals may deliberately move from affected areas to non-affected areas, despite their medical condition and any travel restrictions in place. Instances of individuals claiming to sell contaminated samples of body fluids online have been reported.
It has also said that the COVID-19 pandemic has offered an opportunity for fast cash as predatory criminals take advantage of the high market demand for personal protection and hygiene products, which has triggered massive supply of fake medical products.
"The results of Operation Pangea and other initiatives, conducted by Interpol with enforcement partners from March 2020 onwards, have shown an increase in fake or counterfeit medical items available on the market, including disposable surgical masks, Hand sanitisers, Antiviral and antimalarial medication, vaccines, Covid-19 test kits," the Interpol guidelines said.
Interpol has also given a list of various fraud and scam schemes taking advantage of the crisis situation which have been reported.
"Cybercriminals continue to take advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to launch a variety of cyberattacks. The number of malware and ransomware campaigns using Covid-19 and infecting computer systems of individuals and organizations continues to be a risk," the international agency said.
Further, the agency said that as legitimate vaccines move closer to delivery, the targeting of storage facilities and distribution networks by criminal networks can also be expected, and the updated guidelines highlight the need for secure storage and delivery of supplies.
"High demand combined with a limited supply will make COVID-19 vaccines the equivalent of liquid gold to organized crime networks as soon as one is available."Jurgen Stock, Interpol Secretary-General said.
"This is why it is essential for action to be taken now, to both protect the legitimate supply chain for when the vaccine is ready, and to prevent the production and distribution of fake COVID-19 vaccines," the agency said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)