The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia froze one-off aid payments to freelancers and small businesses on Thursday after thousands were caught in online data scams
BERLIN (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 09th April, 2020) The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia froze one-off aid payments to freelancers and small businesses on Thursday after thousands were caught in online data scams.
Businesses struggling to stay afloat amid the coronavirus crisis are entitled to non-repayable grants of up to 25,000 Euros ($27,300). State authorities said between 3,500 and 4,000 people had been tricked into giving up personal data by fake websites that mimic authorized application forms.
"The economy ministry stopped payments early in the morning. Additionally, the state... removed coronavirus aid websites from the internet. At the first sign of fake websites, which appeared atop the search results, the economy ministry filed fraud charges on Tuesday," the statement read.
State Economy Minister Andreas Pinkwart said the government would put the application forms back online and resume payments as soon as possible. The regional interior minister, Herbert Reul, called the scheme "not only criminal but also morally reprehensible."