FBI warns of ongoing COVID-19 scams targeting govt, health care – Blog post from Nordic IT Security Forum 2020
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warned government agencies and health care organizations of ongoing BEC schemes exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as an overall increase in cryptocurrency and health care fraud scam activity targeting consumers.
Govt and health care industry buyers were alerted of multiple incidents where fraudsters scammed state government agencies trying to buy personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical equipment from both domestic and foreign entities.
“In one case, an individual claimed to represent an entity with which the purchasing agency had an existing business relationship,” the FBI said.
“By the time the purchasing agencies became suspicious of the transactions, much of the funds had been transferred outside the reach of U.S. law enforcement and were unrecoverable.”
Scammers also tricked govt agencies to pay for goods or services without actually receiving what they paid for as part of advance fee fraud schemes.
According to another FBI warning, crooks are also taking advantage of the pandemic to victimize consumers of all ages in cryptocurrency-related fraud schemes such as blackmail attempts, work from home scams, e-commerce advance fee schemes, and investment scams.
In one example of such an extortion scam reported by BleepingComputer last month, the crooks threatened victims to infect their family with the SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as reveal all their “dirty secrets”.
The scammers ask their targets to pay $4,000 worth of bitcoins within 24 hours if they do not want their information to be exposed and their relatives infected.
“Contact law enforcement before paying out blackmail and/or extortion attempts and before converting your money into cryptocurrency to pay them,” the FBI recommends.
“The FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division has an entire team dedicated to preventing and combating cryptocurrency money laundering and frauds.”
The FBI also warned of emerging health care fraud schemes in which fraudsters are using telemarketing calls, social media platforms, and door-to-door visits to sell fake COVID-19 test kits and unapproved treatments, as well as impersonate government officials asking for sensitive information for enrollment in COVID-19 tests.
Other scammers also promise their victims’ free treatment in exchange for their personal and health insurance info, including but not limited to financial data, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, and Medicare or Medicaid numbers.
“Prior health care fraud investigations have shown that once scammers obtain an individual’s personal information, they use it to bill federal health care programs and/or private health insurance plans for tests and procedures the individual did not receive and pocket the proceeds,” the FBI explained.
Victims have also reported scammers claiming to be medical professionals demanding for COVID-19 treatment payments to treat friends or relatives.
In March, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warned nine VoIP service providers against assisting and/or facilitating illegal robocalls that tried to exploit the public anxiety surrounding the pandemic.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also issued a warning regarding a surge in coronavirus-related scams over email, social media, and phone calls, with the fraudsters requesting personal info while using economic impact payments as a lure.
Yesterday, the FTC said that $12.78 million were lost to Coronavirus-related scams according to consumer complaints received since the start of 2020.
Consumers reported 16,778 fraud incidents so far, with roughly 46.3% of fraud complaints also reporting a loss, with a median loss of $570 per incident.
Victims of COVID-19 fraud attempts should immediately report them via the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721, by emailing email@example.com, or by reaching out to the FBI (visit ic3.gov, tips.fbi.gov, or call 1-800-CALL-FBI).