The risks arising from the coronavirus crisis for AML-CFT
The health crisis linked to the COVID-19 pandemic has generated particular risks for professionals subject to the AML-CFT system.
Indeed, the Tracfin organization has noted a substantial increase in reports of fraud related to money laundering since the beginning of the confinement, since March 2020. The specificity of these reports is that the situations to which they refer are directly or indirectly associated with the health crisis.
Fraud can also take the form of fake sales of medical products that are supposed to help their acquirers fight the disease. It can be hydroalcoholic gels, masks or respiratory devices allegedly intended to be delivered to hospitals, public places, companies ... which will never see the color of these goods, or who will receive products that may not comply with health regulations. The victims' money is then placed in the personal accounts of the perpetrators of the scam.
Still in the health equipment trade sector, Tracfin found that fraudsters inserted themselves into the sales channel of medical products intended to treat the coronavirus in order to unduly collect the sums spent on the purchase of these products. For example, fraudsters pose as suppliers to their victims and provide them with new bank details through which they retrieve funds from accounts typically located in Asia.
In this situation, fraud most often takes the form of a phishing technique, i.e. scammers contact their victims through an email address that looks like the real providers. Increased vigilance is required when composing the email address of a supposed supplier, especially when the message sent by this person constitutes payment request.
Similarly, scammers have taken advantage of the crisis by instigating fictitious fundraising campaigns for donations, with the aim of interfering in the wake of the popular solidarity that has been shown towards caregivers throughout the lockdown to extort money from donors. In addition, the implementation of online pools has proven to be an effective way for fraudsters to collect money from crimes such as bank card theft.
In order to avoid the expansion of this type of practice, Tracfin explains that certain clues often present in this type of scam can encourage caution or even reporting. In this sense, a company created very recently or recently reactivated should put the chip in the ear of buyers or donors victims of fraud. The same applies when the company concerned has made a change in its corporate purpose in the near past, in particular when this change occurred around March 2020. Tracfin also warns about objectively dubious elements, such as selling prices significantly far from market prices or a website lacking credibility.
In addition, the Directorate General of Public Finance set up an "anti-fraud" unit on the 2nd of April 2020, precisely with the aim of managing and structuring all requests that have been made by local public accountants since March 2020.
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