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Cyber criminals exploiting swine flu outbreak, Interpol warns

afrol News, 30 April - INTERPOL has today issued of warning of criminals potentially exploiting the swine flu outbreak through spam emails and websites selling illegal, unlicensed or fake medicines.

The international police body said unlicensed and illegal internet pharmacies take orders and payments with no assurance of the goods being delivered and those customers receiving goods have no guarantee of the safety, quality or effectiveness of the drugs, thereby seriously putting their health at risk.

Transactions via this type of unregulated sites also greatly increase the chances of cybercriminals stealing an individual’s credit card details and users’ computers being infected with password stealing viruses, the body said.

“It has been seen time and time again that following a global threat or natural disaster, criminals exploit the situation for their own financial gain and in this situation they are searching to take advantage of people’s fears about their health,” said INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services, Jean-Michel Louboutin.

“By responding to spam swine flu emails or attempting to order medication online through illegal and unregulated websites, people are risking their wellbeing and their money. Any unsolicited emails containing deals or links to websites offering swine flu-related information packs or medicines should be treated with extreme caution,” added Mr Louboutin.

The body has further said internet security firms are reporting that around three to four percent of spam mails currently being circulated are related to swine flu, with this number expected to increase. Similarly, hundreds of new web pages related to swine flu have been created in the past week, the body reported.

Criminal organisations and individuals involved in the production of counterfeit pharmaceuticals may also attempt to take advantage of the current health situation through the manufacture of fake antiviral drugs, warned the police body.

“Any product which can be manufactured can be counterfeited, and while there is so far no evidence to suggest that fake antivirals are being manufactured in response to the swine flu outbreak, this is an area which we will continue to monitor in order to identify any cases if or when they emerge,” said Mr Louboutin.

Interpol concluded by warning users seeking official updates and information about swine flu to consult the World Health Organisation (WHO) which is leading the global response to the outbreak.

The WHO has today raised the international alert to Phase 5 on a six-point scale, signalling an imminent pandemic and urging all countries to intensify preparations.

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