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Coronavirus scammers prey on elderly, playing on their fears

Fraudsters and criminals have also taken their activities online, according to police.

Ikääntynyt nainen istuu sängyllä kuvan vasemmassa laidassa, häntä ei näy kokonaan.
Authorities recommended that residents with elderly relatives and friends should warn them about the possibility they could be targeted by scammers, and that all scam attempts, large or small, should be reported to police. Image: Mikko Savolainen / Yle

Members of Finland’s elderly population are not only more at risk of complications from novel coronavirus infections than younger people, the group has also become the target of scammers playing on fears about the outbreak, according to police.

A number of incidents have come to the attention of law enforcement regarding fraudsters who have exploited people's anxieties in the coronavirus age - particularly elderly residents in Uusimaa.

Authorities have received reports of scammers knocking on the doors of residents' homes, offering to carry out fake coronavirus inspections, providing food delivery services or pretending to be health authorities.

Police in Uusimaa said they were aware of at least three incidents in which thieves stole cash, valuable watches and jewellery as they were installing purported "coronavirus filters" in victims' homes.

Eastern Uusimaa police detective Simo Kauppinen encouraged people to be sceptical of people who suddenly arrive at their front doors, offering coronavirus-related services. He said extra caution should be used if people claim to be acting on behalf of law enforcement.

"The police do not offer any services related to home inspections, nor do we carry out coronavirus inspections door-to-door," Kauppinen said.

Coronavirus malware

Meanwhile, detective Kari Siivo of the Western Uusimaa police department warned that scammers are using coronavirus fears to their advantage online, as well.

He said some websites are selling non-existent products and services, adding that online shoppers should look into the quality and origin of the products they are considering buying before ordering anything.

Mikko Rauhamaa, head of the National Bureau of Investigation’s cybercrime prevention centre, said that malicious websites that claim to offer information about the epidemic may simply be spreading malware.

"You should only get your coronavirus information from well-known authorities' and media outlets' websites," Rauhamaa said.

Police warned that suspicious-appearing emails should not be opened and that any links in such emails should not be followed.

Authorities also recommended that residents with elderly relatives and friends should warn them about the possibility they could be targeted by scammers, and that all scam attempts, large or small, should be reported to police.

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