In recent weeks, we have seen reports of several scams whereby well-intentioned people are being duped into transferring payment, often in the form of cryptocurrency, thinking that they are either helping victims of COVID-19 or acquiring much needed medical provisions.
For example, it has been reported that scammers impersonating World Health Organisation (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials have been spamming inboxes in an attempt to get people to click on malicious links or donate Bitcoin to help the fight against COVID-19.
The City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) has warned against such scams involving emails and texts purporting to be from organisations affiliated with the WHO and CDC. The NFIB said, “They claim to be able to provide the recipient with a list of coronavirus infected people in their area. In order to access this information, the victim needs to click on a link, which leads to a malicious website, or is asked to make a payment in Bitcoin."
Another fraud has involved scammers purport to be selling medical or other sought-after supplies on the internet to worried members of the public, often in return for payment in crypto, and not delivering anything in return.
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has also warned anybody who invests in COVID-19-related crypto schemes to “be prepared to lose all your money.” The FCA said, “Watch out for scams related to coronavirus (COVID-19). These scams take many forms and could be about insurance policies, pensions transfers or high-return investment opportunities, including investments in cryptoassets.
“Scammers are sophisticated, opportunistic and will try many things. They are also very likely to target the vulnerable. Beware of investments that appear to be too good be true. If you decide to invest in something offering a high return or in a cryptoasset, you should be prepared to lose all your money.”
The regulator has issued a helpful list of points that people should consider in order to protect themselves financially, including rejecting offers that come out of the blue, being aware of adverts on social media, not clicking on links or opening emails from unknown senders, avoiding being rushed or pressured into making decisions, and not giving out personal details. The regulator also advised people to use the FCA register to cross check who they are dealing with.
Even during less tumultuous times, we are regularly contacted by people who have had their cryptocurrency lost and stolen, often through scams, hacks or other malevolent actions. Sadly, given the uncertain times we are facing, it is likely that scammers and criminals will continue to attempt the exploit the vulnerabilities of well-intentioned people.
No legitimate organisation or government body will ever request a payment in cryptocurrency. Our advice is, now more than ever, to be extra vigilant about your digital security, and when making online transactions, to avoid any unnecessary additional distress at this challenging time.
Those who have fallen victim to scams or had their cryptocurrencies stolen can recover assets using Reclaim Crypto services offered by Kroll, a division of Duff & Phelps in collaboration with Coinfirm. The combination of Kroll’s investigative expertise with Coinfirm’s proprietary technologies allows for effective investigation and recovery of stolen cryptocurrencies. Evidence gathered from our investigations can be used to design effective legal recovery strategies in conjunction with the appropriate regulatory and law enforcement bodies.