In brief

  • The FBI issued a statement today that warns of an "expected rise" in coronavirus scams involving cryptocurrency.
  • Crypto holders are being asked to be extra cautious for potential investment scams, among other bad actors.

A new wave of coronavirus-related scams involving crypto is on the way, according to the FBI.

In a statement issued today, the domestic intelligence agency explained that people should expect an increase in crypto scams related to COVID-19, including blackmail attempts in which hackers claiming to possess personal information demand Bitcoin ransoms in exchange for the data.

Other malicious tactics will include new investment schemes. Tempted by large returns, victims are coaxed into forwarding digital funds to addresses controlled by bad actors. The FBI also identified the potential for new work-from-home scams in which hackers—posing as employers—offer to make donations to users’ bank accounts. This is usually stolen money that the recipients are asked to deposit into crypto kiosks, making them unknowing participants in illegal transfers.

The FBI said crypto holders can protect themselves by properly researching investment opportunities before making any serious moves. The agency also advised not to share bank information with untrusted parties and diligently verify the charities and nonprofits that claim to accept crypto before making a donation.

“Although there are legitimate charities, investment platforms and e-commerce sites that accept payment in cryptocurrency, pressure to use a virtual currency should be considered a significant red flag,” said the FBI.

The coronavirus pandemic has given rise to a rush of crypto-based scams and malicious tools. Among them is a phony Android app discovered by DomainTools that allegedly tracks the rate of infection. Once launched, the app locks a person’s phone and threatens to sell their private data unless they pay $100 in Bitcoin.

Other scams involve fake BTC donation requests from organizations like the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Once sent, funds will often find themselves in accounts controlled by hackers. Dark web analytics firm DarkOwl also recently reported a surge in fake listings on Internet black markets that claim to offer vaccines and viral samples of COVID-19.