US and UK Take on COVID-19 Scams
Hundreds of COVID-19-related scams, many of which operated from websites that advertised fake vaccines and cures, operated fraudulent charity drives, delivered malware, or hosted various other types of scams, have been disrupted by US law enforcement, the Department of Justice said on Wednesday.
As of April 21, 2020, the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center has received and reviewed more than 3,600 complaints related to COVID-19 scams, said the DOJ statement.
Federal agencies then worked to analyze the complaints and investigate the scams, ultimately shuttering hundreds of malicious domains.
Among the scams closed were a fraudulent site claiming to be soliciting donations for the American Red Cross. Several other sites were impersonating government programs to trick people into entering sensitive personal information such as banking details and others which distributed malicious software.
“The department will continue to collaborate with our law enforcement and private sector partners to combat online COVID-19 related crime,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
To combat the scams, the DOJ worked with agents and investigators from the FBI, the Secret Service, as well as others in both the public and private sector.
“Keeping pace with the growing threat of cyber-enabled COVID-19 scams requires an alliance between the private sector and our law enforcement partners to safeguard our nation from this sort of nefarious conduct,” said Director James M. Murray of the U.S. Secret Service.
According to the statement, The DOJ is also working with international partners to support similar initiatives in other countries.
“In one Justice Department-supported action, a state prosecutor in Brazil took down a fake site purporting to belong to a leading Brazilian brewery,” said the statement. “The website publicized the distribution of free sanitizer, but in fact was infecting the computer systems of numerous Brazilian consumers with malware.”
Across the Atlantic, the UK’s National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) has also taken on COVID-19 related scams. Within a day of establishing a reporting service for suspicious emails, the NCSC took down 80 malicious web based campaigns, according to a statement released Wednesday.
“While we have not seen a rise in email scams in the last month, coronavirus is the top lure currently used to conduct cyber crime, exploiting public unease and fear of the pandemic,” said NCSC Chief Executive Officer Ciaran.
“We hope the success of the Suspicious Email Reporting Service deters criminals from such scams, but if you do receive something that doesn’t look right forward the message to us – you will be helping to protect the UK from email scams and cyber crime,” he added.