As per the latest announcement released by the United States Homeland Security (DHS) and the Departments of Justice (DOJ), a COVID-19 Fraud website was Seized from Seller Who Attempted to Sell It Using Bitcoin in the “hacker forum.”
The owner posted it for sale on a hacker’s forum saying that the domain would be an efficient way to sell “high markup in-demand products.” The website was listed on sale on the forum one day after the United States President declared a national emergency due to the pandemic of COVID 19.
An undercover agent reached out to the seller and the seller clarified that the domain was charged $500, payable in bitcoin. Authorities said in the warrant Domains like this are typically valued closer to just $20. Finally, the investigator transferred a partial payment to an unknown bitcoin address.
Authorities further revealed that, during a conversation with the seller, the undercover agent of Homeland Security Investigations said he wanted to use the website to sell fake COVID-19 test kits. The seller supposedly said it was a ‘genius’ idea, he wanted to do it as well but he couldn’t arrange enough cash to purchase the items from Alibaba [a Chinese e-commerce site].
The seller also guided the undercover agent on how to set up a new website on the domain that will not be tracked and shut down by US authorities in the future.
“Sadly, criminals are using the current pandemic as an opportunity to generate proceeds while so many Americans are suffering,” said William S. Walker, acting HSI Philadelphia Special Agent in Charge. “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.”
Earlier this week, the DOJ reported that the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has investigated over 3,600 complaints related to COVID-19 scams. These fraudulent websites sell bogus vaccines and cures, run fake charity fundraisers, and deploy malware. However, a detailed list of the confiscated domains was not made public, so it is unclear clear this latest case relates to any of the statements DOJ made earlier.