Report: Scammers Earning $2 Million in Crypto From People Worried About COVID-19

Francisco Memoria

Scammers have reportedly stolen at least $2 million in crypto from consumers looking to buy medical supplies – including face masks and medication – by selling them supplies they didn’t have.

According to CoinDesk, blockchain security firm AnChain.AI  has worked with an unnamed “affiliated law enforcement agency” in Asia to trace millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency stolen from those looking to buy supplies amid a public health crisis.

The report cites a recent coronavirus consumer fraud notice from Europe’s police force, in which INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock says:

Criminals are exploiting the fear and uncertainty created by COVID-19 to prey on innocent citizens who are only looking to protect their health and that of their loved ones.

Steven Yang, AnChain.AI’s marketing director, noted some of these scams were being facilitated through the use of cryptocurrencies. The scams are targeting those looking for hard-to-come-by medical supplies. According to investigators, the scammers are using a specific pattern.

First, they list the supplies on trusted e-commerce platforms like Amazon and eBay, as well as on social media, to find their victims. They then lure them out of those platforms and strike deals via messaging platforms, and take the payment in cryptocurrency.

The scammers then print fake shipping labels to trick the victim and the marketplace into believing they have shipped the supplies. While usually nothing arrives, in some cases scammers have reportedly sent buyers empty boxes.

Most of the payments are accepting in the USDt stablecoin (90%), with bitcoin (5%) and ether (2%) falling behind as payment methods. Yang added:

They launder the money through a large number of jumping and pass-through addresses, or using things like tumblers and mixers, before liquidating through exchanges.

The scammers initially started targeting Asian countries, but have since expanded to other countries throughout the world. The stolen funds end up flowing back to Asia, according to AnChain.

To stay safe, buyers are advised to only buy supplies from trusted marketplaces, and to never conduct deals via messaging applications.  INTERPOL’s Chief Jürgen Stock, in his note, advised buyers to verify they’re dealing with “a legitimate, reputable company.”

Featured image via Pixabay.