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Criminals are taking advantage of the global coronavirus crisis and their activity is expected to rise as the pandemic drags on, Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, said in a new report Friday.

“Criminals have been quick to seize opportunities to exploit the crisis by adapting their modi operandi or engaging in new criminal activities,” Europol said. 

The number of cyberattacks against organizations and individuals is “significant and is expected to increase,” Europol said. A cyberattack on Brno University Hospital in the Czech Republic forced the hospital to shut down its entire IT network, postpone urgent surgical interventions and re-route new acute patients to a nearby hospital.

A large number of new or adapted fraud schemes, such as telephone schemes, supply scams and decontamination scams, can also be expected to emerge over the coming weeks as “fraudsters will attempt to capitalize further on the anxieties of people across Europe,” the agency said.  

The sale of counterfeit healthcare and sanitary products, as well as personal protective equipment and counterfeit pharmaceutical products, has also increased “manifold” since the start of the outbreak. Between March 3 and 10 alone, authorities have seized over 34,000 counterfeit surgical masks. 

Europol said organized property theft is also on the rise. Multiple EU member states have reported cases where perpetrators gain access to private homes by impersonating medical staff providing informational material or hygiene products, or conducting a “corona test.”

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