The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) expects a rise in the number of crypto scams related to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a April 13 press release, the FBI warned that the increase of “cryptocurrency-related fraud schemes” would only be facilitated by more people getting on board with crypto. The elderly are particularly vulnerable, but the agency is reporting people of all ages could be victimized by such scams.
“There are not only numerous virtual asset service providers online but also thousands of cryptocurrency kiosks located throughout the world which are exploited by criminals to facilitate their schemes. Many traditional financial crimes and money laundering schemes are now orchestrated via cryptocurrencies.”
In particular, the agency warned Americans to be on the lookout for blackmail attempts, work from home scams, fake COVID-19 treatments or preventative measures, and somewhat more traditional investment scams.
Among the more egregious scams the FBI mentions is an email or letter in which the author threatens to infect the victim or their family with the coronavirus unless a payment is made to a provided Bitcoin wallet address.
How to spot a fake charity
Some online perpetrators have even attempted to steal cryptocurrency by misleading people into thinking they are sending Bitcoin donations to the World Health Organization (WHO) to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the FBI, anyone who suspects they are being targeted by a scammer should verify that such charities are legitimate and accept crypto for donations. Even if the organization is legitimate, “pressure to use a virtual currency should be considered a significant red flag.”
Scams in the time of coronavirus
The FBI warning is consistent with the data published on April 10 by blockchain forensics firm Chainalysis. The firm noted while the average value of transactions received by the wallets of known scammers fell 30% during March, the number of scams involving blackmail and fake email narratives have surged.