With shelter in place orders still in effect as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the opportunity for online fraud has never been greater.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning people specifically about crimes related to cryptocurrency. The agency is on the lookout for potential scammers who are using these shutdowns as an opportunity to lure unsuspecting victims into various types of fraudulent activities.
It’s important to understand the different types of fraud commonly seen with cryptocurrencies. Federal and state governments take these crimes seriously and potential punishments can be severe including length of prison sentences and large fines.
Common Types of Cryptocurrency Fraud
Federal officials are focused on the uptick in certain types of fraud, many of which are old scams repurposed for the modern era of digital currency. Digital currencies make it harder to track many of these scammers, something that encourages their criminal activity.
This type of fraud may come in different ways. One of the most common is for scammers to send out an email to a potential victim claiming to have incriminating details about them. They may claim to have videos or pictures collected through ill-gotten means.
The scammer then tells the victim that to keep the information from going public, they must transfer digital currency.
During the current COVID-19 pandemic, federal officials have identified the new twist on the scam. Some emails are threatening to infect the victims’ family with virus unless paid.
These types of scams have been around since the birth of the internet. Traditionally, work-from-home scams have involved fake employers hiring victims for jobs. These jobs will require the victim to purchase some type of software or pay some other type of startup fee in order to get started with the job. After the fee is paid the fake employer disappears.
More recent spins on this scam have triggered federal response. They involve a fake employer asking the victim to accept a deposit on their behalf.
After they accept the deposit they are requested to transfer the money, usually to an offshore account. This money is often stolen with the victim being used to launder the money.
Paying for Fake Treatments
This is another age-old scam. This time, it involves the scammer luring the victim into paying for the treatment of some sort of ailment. Oftentimes these are for anti-aging treatments or supposed cures for cancers or diabetes.
Beware, during the COVID-19 pandemic, federal prosecutors intend to punish to the full extent of the law for pedaling fake virus treatments.
Fake investments have been around long before the internet. The advent of digital currencies and the ease with which scammers can contact people have made them more widespread.
Authorities are targeting scammers sending out mass emails targeting hundreds of thousands, and even millions of people at a time.
Potential fake investment scams range from fake digital currency launches, known as initial coin offerings (ICOs), too good to be true real estate deals. Officials are eyeing emails that seem to request charitable investments as well.
Authorities Are Warning Consumers of Suspected Fraud, Too
Federal agents are also calling on the public to serve as watchdogs, so understand your scam is more than likely going to be discovered. Here’s what they’re asking Americans to watch for:
If they see an email from someone you don’t know, do not click on it.
Always double-check emails from their banks and other trusted sources. Many scammers like to use legitimate-looking emails from real companies to trick people.
Never give out important information on unsecured websites and when in doubt about the origins of an email, contact the institution that is claiming to contact them.
Remember that fraud is a serious problem that millions of people fall for every year, so the feds already have their eye on common scams. Heightened alerts only increase your chances of getting caught.
Both state and federal law enforcement officials treat these crimes seriously with the punishments for these crimes ranging up to high-level felony offenses.