Scams demanding bitcoin on pain of infecting you with the coronavirus gain their fair share of shine among schemes with a thin veneer of plausibility
In our previous posts, we have talked much about how scammers and spammers are taking advantage of the current fear and confusion brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic to rip off unsuspecting victims.
However, several ransomware gangs have now resorted to alternative tricks to stay afloat as folks are catching up with them. As an example, some of them are faking conscience by publicly announcing that they will avoid targeting healthcare providers within this pandemic period.
In the same vein, the heightened interest and round the clock bulletin of the pandemic across the globe isn’t making things better. Even the most slothful and unimaginative wannabe cybercriminals have been awakened, and now repackaging other’s or own shysterism and scams in COVID-19 wrappers.
In this post, we provide you a few more Coronavirus associated scams that might come your way. Let’s dive in!
The use of blackmail in an attempt to coerce innocent victims to cough up some money isn’t something new among online fraudsters. Our sextortion scams post shows how a scammer can threaten you with “dire” consequences if you don’t pony up some specified amount of money (mostly in the form of bitcoins) to a provided address—for instance, leaking out a video of you watching porn to your list of contacts.
Now, what happens when a global pandemic such as the COVID-19 disease strays into a sextortionist scope?
The example below, perhaps?
Figure 1. Sextortion scam threatening embarrassment plus coronavirus infection for nonpayment
As we can see from the example, the threat goes beyond your typical sextortionist’s threat; it incorporates something current (COVID-19 pandemic).
However, in an amateurish way as it can’t convince a sensible soul. For instance, how the heck are they going to infect your family with the Coronavirus? Simply unrealistic, right?
Another interesting thing about the email is the tactical pairing of passwords gotten from publicly leaked account compromises so as to appear authentic.
Better still, the fraudsters have randomly replaced some of the characters in the message with Unicode homoglyphs (similar characters).
The second figure below highlights the replacements to show you how the scammers carefully selected the homoglyphs in order to convince you.
Figure 2. The same message with Unicode homoglyph replacements highlighted
If you ever receive such a scam mail threatening to infect you and your family with the virus, don’t even give it a second thought.
Those behind it are a bunch of clueless scumbags who don’t even have a clue regarding where to obtain appropriate COVID-19 samples, leave alone how to weaponize and deliver them.
Plain dumb scams
Just like the previous illogical email, you may also be surprised to get an even dumber version.
For example, take a look at the following mail:
Figure 3. “I hate you, give me money” extortion scam
Not only were the composers lazy but also dumb or ignorant. As an example, how is the threat going to be carried out?
Will the supposedly infected neighbor sneak out of their home in the dead of the night and cough on your exterior door handles or letterbox?
This is an example of some of the weirdest emails you may probably get from some low-life, dumb, lazy, or ignorant scumbags who don’t even have an idea about their kind of trade.
For instance, the message doesn’t even state the required amount of money, due date, or any other conditions whatsoever.
Probably, the person behind such a scam is betting on a handful of scared recipients who will voluntarily give in to their demands.
A closer check at the provided bitcoin addresses in the examples alongside others in similar online scams (by our team) indicates that neither of them had received any substantial payments. For example, one of them had transacted a single bitcoin payment whose amount equated to a measly US$0.04.
This shows how not so well thought out scams can be; however, they have the potential of spreading more fear and worry, especially at this particular time of heightened concern, which can cause more damage.
Therefore, instantly delete such emails or similar ones in case they hit your inbox. Otherwise, if you need more advice regarding this type of scams, among other consultations, then ESET has been here for you for over 30 years. We want to assure you that we will be here in order to protect your online activities during these uncertain times, too.
Protect yourself from threats to your security online with an extended trial of our award-winning software.
Try our extended 90-day trial for free.