The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has warned cryptocurrency scammers may be about to unleash a new wave of coronavirus-related schemes to trick users.
According to the agency, the scammers will be targeting people of all ages, including the elderly. Their use of cryptocurrency in their schemes has been growing while the cryptocurrency space itself grows: as more businesses and kiosks use crypto, the easier it is for criminals to use them to their advantage.
The FBI’s warning listed a few cryptocurrency schemes the scammers may try to use related to the COVID-19 pandemic. These include blackmail attempts, where scammers claim to have the victims’ personal information and threaten to infect them with COVID-19, and the offer of non-existent treatment and equipment while posing as well-known e-commerce platforms.
The agency also added that scammers may pose as employers to ask victims to accept “donations” of funds into their bank accounts, so they can be deposited via a cryptocurrency kiosk. The donation, the FBI added, is “likely money stolen from others.” This would make the victim an illegal money mule.
Investment scams, including those using initial coin offerings (ICOS), may also be used. The FBI warned that while there are legitimate organizations accepting cryptocurrency, pressure to use cryptos should be seen as a red flag.:
Although there are legitimate charities, investment platforms, and e-commerce sites that accept payment in cryptocurrency, pressure to use a virtual currency should be considered a significant red flag.
To stay safe, users have been advised to verify whether the organization they’re dealing with is legitimate and accepts cryptocurrencies, to conduct extensive research on potential investment opportunities, and to not use their personal bank accounts for work-from-home business-related activities.
If being blackmailed, the FBI advised users to contact law enforcement before paying out the extorters and before converting the funds into cryptocurrency.