Information sourced from fbi.gov, fda.gov, and ftc.gov
Currently, scammers are capitalizing on COVID-19, taking advantage of people’s fear and uncertainty to steal money and launder it through the complex cryptocurrency system. These scams are targeted to people of all ages, including the elderly, using various convincing ploys to take people’s money.
Advised by the FBI, here are some cryptocurrency fraud schemes to be on the lookout during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Blackmail attempts: For years, cybercriminals have been sending threatening emails to people, claiming that they have one’s personal information or “dirt” that they will expose unless the recipient makes a payment in Bitcoin or some other cryptocurrency kiosk. Now, many cyber crooks have changed their messaging to involve COVID-19 related threats. For example, one currently popular blackmail scheme actually threatens to physically infect recipients and/or their family if they don’t comply with the scammer’s requests.
Work from home scams: With many people currently working from home, some scammers are posing as employers asking employees to accept a “donation” into their bank account and then deposit those funds into a crypto kiosk. This money is almost always stolen money, so those who do as told by the scammer could actually be charged with unlicensed money transmission. That said, if you receive any requests like this, be sure to call your employer to verify that they are actually asking you to do this.
Non-existent COVID-19 treatments or equipment: Currently, scammers are using trusted e-commerce sites like eBay, Amazon, and social media marketplaces to promote products that either prevent or cure COVID-19. These fake listings, made for products that don’t actually exist, lure interested shoppers onto unregulated messaging sites made by the scammer that accept payment in cryptocurrency.
Investment scams: The FBI also predicts investment scams, including Ponzi schemes and initial coin offering (ICO) scams, to surge throughout the duration of COVID-19. As always, be wary of any “too good to be true” investment offers that offer large monetary returns for a short-term, small investment. More often than not, these types of offers are ploys to take people’s money.
Scams Regarding Government Benefits & the Coronavirus Relief Package
With the recently passed CARES Act, there has been a surge in financial scams connected to the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package. The IRS is warning people to be on the lookout for many new and evolving phishing schemes targeted towards taxpayers. Those waiting for their coronavirus relief package to come through direct deposit or in the mail, should be on the lookout for any suspicious requests or messaging regarding government financial benefits.
Here are some red flags to watch out for:
Asking for personal information: The government will NOT ask you for personal information to give you your financial benefits. If you are eligible to receive the benefits, your government check will be mailed to you or will be directly deposited into your bank account.
Promise to speed up delivery process: While the government is working hard to get everyone’s benefits and relief packages out as quickly as possible, many have not received funds yet and may be eager to get them. Scammers are taking advantage of this by reaching out to people promising that they can either speed up the process or immediately transfer their funds to them as soon as they verify their personal and/or banking information. Do not respond to any offer like this.
Bogus checks: Some scammers are mailing bogus checks to people’s houses, often in an odd amount, then telling the recipient that they can claim this check by verifying their information online or over the phone. Likely, if you are receiving a check that is asking you to call a number to verify, this is not a real check coming from the government. If you are eligible to receive COVID-19 related benefits, you will get them through mail or direct deposit and will NOT need to verify any information.