Following a warning from the national watchdog earlier this month, regional authorities across the United Kingdom say Bitcoin scammers are using the coronavirus crisis to hoax citizens.
In a series of consumer fraud alerts published throughout March, Manchester city council and the counties of Pembrokeshire and Norfolk echoed the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)’s caution against “sophisticated” and “opportunistic” cryptocurrency-related schemes operating during the pandemic.
The three regional authorities identify a range of tactics adopted by Bitcoin (BTC) scams to take advantage of the social disorientation and anxiety amid the public health crisis. Manchester city council warns against:
“Fraudsters purporting to be from a research group that mimic the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO). They claim to provide the victim with a list of active infections in their area but to access this information the victim needs to either: click on a link which redirects them to a credential-stealing page; or make a donation of support in the form of a payment into a Bitcoin account.”
Similar schemes claiming to offer up-to-date infection tracking data and soliciting payments in Bitcoin are identified on all three regional government sites.
Meanwhile, the FCA has emphasized that high-return investment opportunities, including investments in crypto assets, may be repurposed to take advantage of the current pandemic.
As previously reported, crypto-related scams have been operating on both sides of the Atlantic during the COVID-19 outbreak.
In mid-March, the United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission highlighted that fraudsters may be exploiting the crisis in order to add credibility to their scam schemes or manipulate emotions.
Misrepresentations of the WHO and fraudulent appeals for donations in cryptocurrency — as well as new ransomware called “CovidLock” — have also been identified by cybersecurity researchers.