As the COVID-19 pandemic spread rapidly across Europe, the number of people trying to profit from consumer fears and anxieties has continued to increase. Online scams and unfair e-commerce practices are in the sights of the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network (CPC).
The CPC says that burles are always trying to find new ways to "escape" the authorities' scrutiny. Thus, in order to identify the most problematic trends and protect consumers, the CPC is carrying out a Sweep: an investigation into online trading practices in Europe.
The European Commission network says that the current Sweep is organized to identify fraudulent cases on two fronts. The first relates to online platforms and complements the research that the CPC had already started on March 20. Sweep's second front is related to offers and advertisements related to products in high demand during the pandemic period.
CPC authorities will review the existing categories on the trading platforms and online advertising campaigns to identify, for example, cases of sale of products that claim to cure COVID-19 or prevent cases of infection. In addition, they will check whether traders are trying to force the purchase of products, such as protective equipment and disinfectants, or to inflate prices.
European justice commissioner Didier Reynders also called for cooperation from digital platforms, asking them to take action against fraudulent practices. Several technology and e-commerce companies have already responded to the request from the commissioner and the CPC, including Google, Microsoft, Amazon or Wish.
It is recalled that the miraculous treatments and cures for COVID-19 did not leave Europol indifferent. In March, the European agency confirmed that it carried out an operation to eliminate 2,500 fraudulent links on websites, social networks, online markets and advertisements.
Europol data also reveals that the operation led to the arrest of 121 people and the seizure of a total of 13 million euros in potentially dangerous pharmaceutical products.
Europol has been joining efforts to prevent COVID-19 from being a gold mine for cybercriminals. The organization, as well as the European Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) and CERT-EU are part of a recent initiative in Brussels aimed at the digital security of European citizens.