Digital Assets: Beware, Scam Actors Using Coronavirus to Bilk Victims

March 17, 2020 | Digital Assets, News
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The FTC here, and the FCA, across the Atlantic, issue warnings against corona-linked frauds.

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority issued a warning last Wednesday against scams related to coronavirus (Covid-19). The advice was a part of a consumer support page.  The page also covered access to cash, insurance, and the fair treatment of customers.

“Watch out for scams related to coronavirus (Covid-19),” said the FCA. “These scams take many forms and could be about insurance policies, pensions transfers, or high-return investment opportunities, including investments in crypto assets.”

FCA: Beware, if too good to be true

Among the “don’ts’ advised by the FCA are the usual chestnuts such as offers that are too good to be true, handing over personal details (such as bank details, address and existing insurance, etc), and clicking links or opening emails from unknown persons.

“If you decide to invest in something offering a high return or in a crypto asset, you should be prepared to lose all your money,” the FCA warned.

The FCA advised to call back existing providers that contact a person unexpectedly. It also warned consumers to be wary of advertisements on social media channels and online.

Other resources the FCA suggested were the FCA Register and Warning List to check the identities of scamsters. Persons suspecting a scam should call  Action Fraud straight away on 0300 123 2040, or the FCA Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768.

The FBI’s warning

Meanwhile, closer home, the FBI too sounded an alarm on coronavirus-linked scams. Apparently, phishing scams through suspicious emails were proliferating. These masquerade as emails from the CDC or the World Health Organization.

“They’re getting people to download attachments that contain malware in an effort to get a hold of people’s bank statements and personal information,” said Sgt. Parsons with the Dunwoody Police Deptt.

FTC

Last month the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) too had issued an alert titled “Coronavirus: Scammers follow the headlines.”

“Scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding the Coronavirus,” said Colleen Tressler, FTC’s Consumer Education Specialist. “They’re setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information.”

Moreover, among the warnings from the FTC are:

  • Watch for bogus emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts.  These falsely claim that they have information about the virus.
  • Ignore fraudulent online offers for vaccinations.
  • Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites.
  • Be alert to lucrative but hoax “investment opportunities” about companies. Usually, fraudsters claim these stocks will skyrocket due to products and services that will supposedly attack or cure the virus.

Example of WHO fraud

Chester Wisniewski, a cybersecurity specialist at the international security firm Sophos, said one scam modus operandi involved the World Health Organization.

The victim arrives to see the real WHO website but with a fake pop-up window superimposed upon it asking for their personal email address and password.

Related Story:  Legal AI Draws Blood; Nabs Very Senior, Fraudulent Divorce Lawyers in Silicon Valley                

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