European Commission Warns Of Rising Pandemic Scam Risk

The European Commission has told online media and e-commerce companies to prepare for more consumer scams related to the Covid-19 pandemic as cases rise sharply in Europe.

The Commission said scammers had used the first wave of coronavirus infections earlier this year as an opportunity to sell fraudulent products or to launch scams aimed at spreading malware or stealing consumers’ account login credentials.

“We know from our earlier experience that fraudsters see this pandemic as an opportunity to trick European consumers,” stated Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders.

“We also know that working with the major online platforms is vital to protect consumers from their illegal practices.

‘More agile’

“We need to be even more agile during the second wave currently hitting Europe,” Reynders added.

He met with internet executives on Friday, encouraging them to share more information in order to create a stronger response against misinformation and fraud.

Eleven platforms, Allegro, Amazon, Alibaba/AliExpress, CDiscount, Ebay, Facebook, Google, Microsoft/Bing, Rakuten, Verizon Media/Yahoo and Wish, are working with the Commission to fight Covid-19 consumer scams.

Since March, when EU member states’ consumer protection authorities adopted a common position on the issue, the Commission and consumer protection regulators have been working with the platforms on a coordinated response.

The platforms have removed hundreds of millions of illegal offers and ads and have seen a “steady decline” in coronavirus-related listings, the Commission said.


Separately, the Commission said a report on coronavirus disinformation showed that Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and TikTok had taken useful actions on the matter.

The study is the Commission’s third set of monitoring reports, intended to help crack down on false information around the pandemic.

Internal market commissioner Thierry Breton said more needs to be done on the issue.

“Viral spreading of disinformation related to the pandemic puts our citizens’ health and safety at risk,” he said.

“We need even stronger collaboration with online platforms in the coming weeks to fight disinformation effectively.”

Vera Jourova, Commission vice president for values and transparency, said online platforms must become “more transparent and accountable” around disinformation issues and called for a “better framework” to help companies “do the right thing”.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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