The Department of Justice (DoJ) stated that it disrupted hundreds of online COVID-19 related scams in an ongoing cooperative effort between federal law enforcement agencies and private-sector companies, including multiple internet domain providers and registrars.
Multiple federal agencies have worked to analyze the complaints, investigate ongoing fraud, phishing, or malware schemes, and referred the violations to the private-sector companies that are managing or hosting the domains to take action. Agencies have already sent hundreds of these referrals.
These include websites that have often utilized domain names that contained words such as “COVID-19,” or “coronavirus” to attract traffic. They also include fraudulent sites purported to be run by, or affiliated with, public health organizations or agencies.
There was also an illicit website pretending to solicit and collect donations to the American Red Cross for COVID-19 relief efforts. Fraudulent websites also spoof government programs and organizations to trick citizens into entering personally identifiable information, including banking details.
As of April 21, 2020, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has received and reviewed more than 3,600 complaints related to COVID-19 scams, that included advertising fake vaccines and cures, operating fraudulent charity drives, delivering malware, or hosting various other types of scams.
The federal agencies have already sent hundreds of these referrals and the private-sector companies have taken down the domains after concluding that they violated their abuse policies and terms of service, without requiring legal process.
Law enforcement agencies are actively reviewing leads, including those referred by private firms, to verify unlawful activity and quickly pursue methods for disruption.
The DoJ is also working to provide COVID-19 related training and technical assistance in other countries through the International Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (ICHIP) program.
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