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Criminals See Opportunity in Coronavirus Epidemic

Ábrahám Vass 2020.03.20.

Criminals seem relatively unconcerned by recent events and there are certain people out there trying to make “big profits” from the crisis, while other usual suspects just adjusted their methods to the changed circumstances the pandemic brought.

The criminals of the so-called “grandparents’ scam” seem to have adapted to the new situation in the country, the communications director of the National Crime Prevention Council, László Garamvölgyi told public media. He said lately these fraudsters tend to tell stories to old people about their grandchildren getting infected by the virus, thus needing money. This scam is often done with another method in which they offer [not yet existing] tests. After the story, business goes as usual: someone is being sent to collect the scammed money, damaging the elderly, revealed Garamvölgyi.

Garamvölgyi also warned that the disinfectants, masks and medicaments typically offered by vendors in small villages could even pose a health risk, and warned residents not open their doors to peddlers but to call the police instead. He added that people should only buy protective products from legal vendors. He also said that tricksters typically arrive in groups. While one distracts the householder’s attention others steal something from the house.

He also noted the dangers posed by fake phishing websites and strongly advised against sharing personal and banking data.

In addition, daily Magyar Nemzet refers to unnamed, underground sources when writing that criminals disguised in masks might try to get into houses claiming they are there to disinfect it (this wouldn’t be the authorities’ job anyway).

Also, many fraudsters offer products online and offline, suggesting them to be effective in preventing or curing the coronavirus, but are actually ineffective. Recently, a carwash has been fined for offering anti-coronavirus disinfection to drivers. While others sell ineffective occupational dust masks and gas masks on the Internet.

On Tuesday, the Central District Court of Buda ordered the pretrial detention of a 35-year-old Honduran man who has lived in Hungary for four years now, and misled the leader of a US-based business firm. He is now suspected to have agreed to supply the firm with 220 million face masks while using the data of an existing Hungarian firm that wasn’t aware of the “deal.” The suspect and his accomplices asked for and received an advance payment of nearly one hundred thousand dollars in exchange for the promised but non-existent face masks.

featured image: illustration; via MTI/Csaba Krizsán