The recent pandemic has led to a rise in cryptocurrency scams around the world. These scam artists are targeting people through social media messages and emails.
The FBI has revealed that they are expecting a rise in cryptocurrency-related scams in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the cryptocurrency industry has been used for criminal activity in the past, more people confined to their homes and the rise in businesses accepting cryptocurrency as a legitimate form of payment may encourage more illicit activity.
The FBI urges people to be cautious, as scammers are targeting people of all ages. The organization also stated that “many traditional financial crimes and money laundering schemes are now orchestrated via cryptocurrencies.”
Cryptocurrency scams may take the following forms:
- Attempts to blackmail through emails or messages informing the target that they need to pay in Bitcoin, or else personal information will be made public or the target will be infected with the Coronavirus
- Employers asking for donations and putting them into a crypto kiosk
- Non-existent equipment or treatments to prevent or cure the coronavirus, which can only be paid through digital currency.
To avoid falling victim to these scams, the FBI urges netizens to conduct their research before releasing any form of currency. This includes:
- Verifying vendors or charities prior to sending donations
- Studying investment opportunities
- Refraining from using personal bank accounts for work-from-home business activities
- Contacting law enforcement should any attempts at blackmail happen.
Recent scams that have circulated around the internet include calls for Bitcoin donations to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention for the fight against the coronavirus, as well as impersonations of officials from agencies who are willing to provide confidential information on these active infections for a price paid in Bitcoin.
Cryptocurrency exchanges are urged to monitor transactions and conduct more comprehensive Know Your Customer (KYC) reviews on their clients. It is hoped that these exchanges function as a barrier for questionable transactions, with ideas such as enhanced AI and partnerships with data providers being proposed.
Internet advertisements are also under close scrutiny; Google Ads and Youtube have previously displayed fraudulent cryptocurrency ads through their advertisement network. Despite strict regulations against all cryptocurrency ads in general, advertisement platforms still have a long way to go to mitigate the spread of scams.