Criminals and scam artists are cashing in on the astronomic demand for COVID-related products during the pandemic. This much is evident as Interpol announced that it shut down a “record number” of fake online pharmacies under Operation Pangea XIV, which targeted the sale of counterfeit and illicit medicines and medical products.
113,020 web links, including websites and online marketplaces, were closed down or removed – the highest figure since the first Operation Pangea in 2008, Interpol said. The international law enforcement organisation coordinated the latest operation with police, customs, and health regulatory authorities from 92 countries.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, fake and unauthorised COVID-19 testing kits accounted for over half of all medical devices seized during the week of action from 18 to 25 May, which saw 277 arrests worldwide and the seizure of potentially dangerous pharmaceuticals worth over US$23 million (~RM94.7 million).
Additionally, Italian authorities recovered over 500,000 fake surgical masks as well as 35 industrial machines used for production and packaging. Aside from COVID-related products, other items seized include hypnotic and sedative medication, erectile dysfunction pills, painkillers, and vitamins.
“Whilst some individuals were knowingly buying illicit medicines, many thousands of victims were unwittingly putting their health and potentially their lives at risk,” said Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock.
We won’t be surprised if many Malaysians are rushing online to find exotic ‘cures’ for COVID and supposed test kits for the virus. We can only urge you, with all sincerity, to buy approved medicines and medical products from approved sources for approved uses.