Listen To This Article - A Short Ad Pays For This Service

Updated on by

SCARS™ Coronavirus Scam Warning: A Social Disease – How Fraudsters Adapt Old Scams To Exploit The Coronavirus Crisis

According to the Guardian: Criminals Who Formerly Tried to ‘Sextort’ People Online are Now Making Threats to Infect a Target’s Family and Friends

You get an email that is immediately threatening.

“I know every dirty little secret about your life,” it begins. “To prove my point, tell me, does [ONE OF YOUR PASSWORDS] ring any bell to yοu? It was one οf your passwords.”

The message goes on to inform recipients that the sender knows where they live, to whom they talk and how they spend their days, before delivering the punchline:

“You need tο pay me $4,000. You’ll make the payment via bitcoin … If I do not get the payment: Ι will infect every member οf your family with the coronavirus.”

SCARS|RSN Content Table of Contents hide

Welcome to the Underworld of Coronavirus COVID-19 Cybercrime!

Depending on your stance can be viewed either as the greatest public health and economic emergency for a century or a chance to scam a fortune from a captive market under effective house arrest worldwide.

A Variation on a Theme

These email threats are a variation of so-called “sextortion” scams – that blackmail with the threat of their X-rated photos being sent to their family and friends (inevitably, some will pay up).

Research has also found that the volume of coronavirus email scams nearly tripled in the past week, with almost 3% of all global spam now estimated to be Coronavirus COVID-19 related. Attackers are increasingly impersonating the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations, the U.S. CDC (Centers for Disease Control), and other agencies as well.

Chester Wisniewski, a principal research scientist at SOPHOS said: “Cybercriminals are wasting no time in shifting their dirty, tried-and-true attack campaigns towards advantageous lures that prey on mounting virus fears. Criminals often dip a toe in the water when there is a new or sensational topic in the news.

“In one of the spam campaigns we tracked this week, there was evidence of exactly that … The main body of the email pretends to come from a WHO email address with ‘health advice’ in the attachment, but when we carefully inspect the plain text body, we see it matches a previous spam campaign from [a familiar] criminal.”

These email spam campaigns are typically designed to obtain individuals’ personal information, which can then be used by criminals to steal funds. However, the range of different scams is far wider than a few rogue emails.

Neil Tyson, the director of the consultancy Fraud Management Resource Centre in the United Kingdom, said: “Criminals will use the telephone, text messages, email, post or knock at the door. They will exploit all five of those. People will knock at doors selling fake test kits or fake cures. People will claim to be acting for the local authority, saying we need contact details in case of emergency. There are examples of that.”