The constraints created by the COVID-19 pandemic have forced many to use online sites for the purchase of products and services. As a result of the increase in users, more money launderers and fraudsters have turned to this virtual space to unleash their schemes. This pattern was recently assessed and documented by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).
Some of the schemes observed by the anti-crime body include trafficking in counterfeit medicines, test kits, vaccines and services; offering fraudulent investment opportunities; fundraising using fake charities; procurement fraud that may involve politically exposed persons; fraud based on non-delivery especially for goods and services directly related to fighting the Pandemic; hoarding and price gouging of medical related items; cybercrimes – malware and ransomware against government agencies and medical institutions that are directly involved in fighting the pandemic; and fraud based on fraudulent claims for government benefits/ grants and/ or unemployment claims.
With the foregoing in mind, the FIU sought to urge all of its reporting entities including banks and cambios to remain vigilant during this period. The FIU said stakeholders are encouraged to continue to assess the money laundering and terrorist financing risks associated with the introduction or (in some cases) increased use of online services and digital platforms being utilized to facilitate non-face-to-face transactions, as has become necessary due to the social distancing protocols.
The FIU said too that reporting entities and all stakeholders are urged to report suspicious transactions linked to the schemes outlined.