US seizes COVID-19 fraud domain on sale for BTC

U.S. authorities have seized a domain relating to COVID-19 after the owner tried to sell it for BTC. The domain, coronaprevention.org was on sale for $500. The seizure of the domain comes amid rising digital currency scams related to COVID-19.

 In a press release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office claimed that the owner of the domain posted it on a ‘hackers forum.’ Identified only as Subject A, the seller claimed that the domain was perfect for selling “high markup in-demand products.” He asked for $500, accepting payment only in BTC.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) further claims that an agent from Homeland Security reached out to the seller, inquiring about the domain. The seller allegedly told the agent that the domain would be perfect to sell fake testing kits. He added that he wanted to do it himself, “but he couldn’t get enough cash to bulk buy them from Alibaba [a Chinese e-commerce site].” Additionally, he directed the agent on how to set up a new website on the domain using a foreign-based service, which he said would prevent U.S. authorities from being able to seize it.

U.S. Attorney Timothy Shea cautioned criminals exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to scam people, using “anonymous online spaces and cryptocurrency to hide their harmful activities and prey on victims.”

William Walker, a special agent at Department of Homeland Security, stated, “Sadly, criminals are using the current pandemic as an opportunity to generate proceeds while so many Americans are suffering. Homeland Security Investigations and our partners will continue to aggressively pursue those who attempt to illegally capitalize on this crisis through illicit money-making schemes.”

The advent of the coronavirus has seen a sharp spike in scams related to the pandemic, with the scammers preying on people’s fear to defraud them. Just days ago, the DoJ announced that it had disrupted hundreds of online scams relating to the disease. The DoJ worked with internet companies such as domain registrars in its quest. It also revealed that the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has received over 3,600 complaints related to COVID-19. The FBI has also warned against such scams, urging the public to be vigilant.

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