Due to the troublesome spread of coronavirus-themed scams and malware attacks, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) launched a nationwide campaign to detect, inhibit and punish any fraudulent or malicious online activity.
“It is essential that the Department of Justice remain vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting wrongdoing related to the crisis,” said U.S. Attorney General William Barr in the Memorandum sent out to attorney offices across the nation.
Later adding that “there have been reports of individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud, reports of phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and reports of malware being inserted onto mobile apps designed to track the spread of the virus.”
As consequence, the DOJ released its first enforcement action against a fraudulent website, named “coronavirusmedicalkit.com”. The operators of the domain apparently claimed to be offering vaccine kits approved by the World Health Organization for a mere shipping fee of $4.95, paid online via credit card.
As we all know, no vaccines against the virus have been approved for public use, and a temporary restraining order was filed against the website, pending further investigation.
The website was apparently not just promoting a fake product. The criminals were actually after the credit card and other personal information consumers provide when ordering the kit. With the data gathered, fraudsters could easily engage in other unlawful schemes such as credit card fraud and identity theft.
Following the complaint filed by the District Court of Austin Texas, the website is no longer available for the public.
“We therefore moved very quickly to shut down this scam. We hope in the future that responsible web domain registrars will quickly and effectively shut down websites designed to facilitate these scams,” said U.S. Attorney John F. Bash of the Western District of Texas.
The DOJ also advises consumers to be vigilant and follow protective measures to fend off any fraudulent attempts:
• Verify the authenticity of any company, charity or person contacting you with COVID-19-related content
• Watch out for websites or email addresses impersonating legitimate authorities such as the WHO and the CDC
• Delete unsolicited emails that address coronavirus treatments, vaccines or supplies
• Do not provide any personal information to people contacting you via SMS or social media posts in return for monetary aid or other goods
• Do not access email attachments from unverified sources. Authorities do not provide updates and information regarding the development of the pandemic via email to the public
• Install a local security solution that is up to date