Europol on Counterfeits in COVID-19 Pandemic

While the world is suffering because of the COVID-19 pandemic, counterfeiters and criminals have lost no time to exploit and profit from this dire situation. On April 17, 2020, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Co-operation (Europol) published a report describing key findings on counterfeits, substandard goods, and intellectual property crime in the pandemic in the European Union (EU).

The most concerning aspect is the counterfeiting of pharmaceutical products that are considered as treatment options to fight the COVID-19 infection. For example, chloroquine is regularly used to treat malaria but has shown promise against COVID-19 in some patients. “Counterfeiters and fraudsters quickly started offering chloroquine either to distribute counterfeits of the substance or as part of scams”, the report stated. The drug is offered on many online platforms as well as in instant messaging apps, posting potential severe health risk to our society. Many websites were also found to sell fake COVID-19 home test kits and face masks.

Panic buying of certain food such as meat, flour, and milk during the early phase of the pandemic has caused a temporary shortage and created an opportunity for counterfeiters. Europol found that “Food and other related counterfeit and substandard products are offered via dedicated websites as well as through listings on other platforms including social media platforms. These products are also found on the dark web marketplace”.

Heightened criminal activity during this trying time calls for more effective anti counterfeiting technology, especial solutions such as Helix Shield that offer online brand protection and supply chain traceability. Counterfeiter’s golden days are numbered.