The New York Police Department is on “alert” after uncovering a disturbing blackmail scheme where people are targeted online by scammers who threaten to infect their families with Covid-19 if they refuse to pay them money.
Exclusively reported by The Daily Beast, which has seen a sensitive law enforcement document headlined “Scams and Fraud Campaigns Exploiting Covid-19 Likely to Continue,” and dated 20 April which reads:
The pandemic has created an environment ripe for fraudulent activity with threat actors leveraging fears of the virus to perpetrate a variety of malicious and criminal exploitation.
The document says that “threat actors around the world have flooded the internet with Covid-19 themed phishing scams in attempts to capitalise on fears of the virus for financial gain”.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism, John Miller, said:
The commercial scams, trying to defraud institutions out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, are complex and layered. These are of great concern because of the amounts of money involved and the fact that the person who pays needs these supplies to protect patients or customers.
The blackmail scam has been less successful because... it is a little more far-fetched but it’s playing on people’s fears.
The bad guys buy the names and passwords in bulk from the dark web, so if you send out 300,000 of these emails you only need a few people to fall for it to make a nice profit for very little investment.
The Covid-19 scam is similar to a “porn-extortion” scam which emerged last year, in which victims were threatened with having their browsing history exposed.
Thankfully it turns out this scam was a bluff, but that didn’t stop it from being successful. So far this success has thankfully not been repeated with the Covid-19 scam.
As far as this coronavirus blackmail scam goes, the best thing to do is to delete it and not interact with the sender. And to be extra safe, make sure you reset your passwords often.