Over four hundred scam stores have been shut down by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) for selling fraudulent items related to the coronavirus.
As reported by the BBC, 2,000 online scams, including 471 stores, were closed because they were promoting schemes through emails or on dedicated websites. Other websites, which attempted to share malware and conduct phishing attacks, were removed, and 900 advance-fee schemes, which offered large amounts of money after their victims made a one-off payment, were also closed.
Some examples are more obviously fake than others, ranging from emails that state “Please send $250 worth of iTunes gift cards for essential lockdown supplies!” to some which have taken time to mimic the format of World Health Organisation (WHO) emails, including logos and signatures, and even a similar email address to the WHO.
The advice given by the NCSC is to be suspicious of such emails, and not to click or download anything unless you are certain of its origin. The public is also being advised to forward these emails to [email protected] UK Minister for Security, James Brokenshire, said: “Criminals are seeking to exploit our greater use of emails, video conferencing and other technologies for their advantage. It’s despicable that they are using the coronavirus outbreak as cover to try to scam and steal.”
Across the globe, governments are having to deal with malicious actors trying to make a profit from the coronavirus pandemic. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has warned people to be aware of robocalls offering fake coronavirus test kits, and the Justice Department has told federal officials to crack down on scammers. “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,” US Attorney General William Barr wrote.
It’s not only governments that are working to stop these scams, the large tech companies are tightening controls on their platforms. Microsoft-owned platform LinkedIn has seen a rise of medical equipment being pushed after sellers were removed from Amazon and eBay. Amazon, in particular, has banned third-party merchants who advertise products claiming to treat or cure the coronavirus. Google has also reported that hackers are pushing even more phishing attempts as the coronavirus pandemic continues.