Scammers Use COVID-19 Fear to Extort Bitcoins

Multiple tactics are being used to lure victims into the trap.

As COVID-19 is spreading around the world, scammers are taking advantage of people’s fears in order to extort Bitcoins.

Many people have received direct extortion emails asking to pay $4,000 in digital currencies, including Bitcoin, else their family will be infected with the coronavirus.

These emails are well-crafted and even include publicly available personal information to create panic in the potential victims.

Sophos, an IT security company, revealed that the scammers are also sending emails to many people impersonating as the World Health Organization (WHO) and asking for donations in digital currencies.

“First, Sophos noticed phishing attackers using the World Health Organization (WHO) as a lure. Next, numerous malware gangs began to disguise their malicious wares as COVID-19-themed documents. Now today, we are seeing cyberattackers impersonating WHO charities, this time the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund,” Chester Wisniewski, a principal research scientist at Sophos, said.

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These emails are very “real looking” but have no ties with the WHO or any authentic charitable organizations.

“The tell-tale clue is the request for Bitcoin, rather than credit cards or other currency. Due to the ability to trace and stop real wire transfers and credit cards, criminals prefer to rely on crypto-currencies to attempt to preserve their anonymity and freedom and the Bitcoin payment request seen here is a sign that something isn’t right about this email,” Wisniewski added.

Using every tactic to lure victims

Apart from the emails, scammers are also trying to inject malware in computers using COVID-19 themed documents.

Notably, with the coronavirus outbreak, the search activity on the topic increased drastically, and scammers are taking advantage of this interest.

“Numerous malware gangs began to disguise their malicious wares as COVID-19-themed documents. Now today, we are seeing cyber attackers impersonating WHO charities, this time the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.”

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