As the planet struggles to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, fraudsters from across the globe are working day and night to reap massive financial benefits.
The raging COVID-19 pandemic has been accompanied by the emergence of crypto scams that seek to swindle oblivious users while taking advantage of the expected increase in viral online searches related to the coronavirus crisis.
According to expert data, there has been a significant spike in coronavirus-related domain registrations, with a majority of these sites being scams.
A graph depicting the number of coronavirus-related domains registered weekly. Source: Check Point
It has been found that a large number these sites have been created with an intention of enabling the creators to make quick money in the wake of rising COVID-19 search queries.
The result of this scenario will be the mass occurrence of fraud schemes that would leverage on the current fear and uncertainty – aiming to steal people’s funds and launder the criminal proceeds through the highly sophisticated cryptocurrency system.
It can be inferred that the current global circumstance of anticipated fraud schemes is brought about by the fact that cryptocurrency technology has advanced significantly, with a host of businesses moving in to accept digital assets as a payment option. These factors have been fueled by the increased popularity of virtual currencies along with their accessibility.
Today, apart from the fact that the virtual asset industry has provided a massive range of options to invest and transact, there is a marked existence of crypto kiosks located across international destinations – which have become central facilitators to various criminal fraud schemes.
Indeed, a host of traditional financial crimes and money laundering cases have been facilitated by the cryptocurrency ecosystem.
The Crypto Fraud Schemes to Beware
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued an advisory about some of the coronavirus-related cryptocurrency fraud schemes that people need to beware. They include:
Work From Home Scams
Fraudsters, posing as legitimate employers, may request people to “accept fund donations” into the target’s bank account and transfer the money to a crypto kiosk. The purported donation will turn out to be stolen funds gained from other unsuspecting people.
A user’s acceptance and transfer of the illegally-obtained money will be classified as an illicit money mule activity involving the unlicensed transmission of funds.
Treatment or Equipment Payment Scams
It is now common knowledge that scammers have been taking advantage of the current public health crisis to lure unsuspecting online users using e-commerce websites that offer products related to COVID-19 treatment. This also includes messaging sites that accept crypto payments for health equipment that do not actually exist.
For a long time, people have been receiving threatening emails in which scammers purport to have access to their targets’ sensitive information, including knowledge of their private lives. This is followed by payment demands in which the scammers would ask for a specific amount of Bitcoin to prevent exposure of the personal information.
With the current COVID-19 pandemic, scammers have added a new twist, they send threatening letters that claim that the scammer will not only release their target’s personal information but go ahead to infect their family with coronavirus unless crypto payment is made to a designated wallet.
Considering the financial hardship that has accompanied this pandemic, it is expected that scammers will pitch fraudulent investments involving new cryptocurrencies to lure and steal victims’ funds.
To protect people from the anticipated forms of coronavirus-related crypto schemes, the FBI advises people to contact their local field office or report suspicious activities to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.