The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has been warning of coronavirus scammers taking advantage of the pandemic for personal gain.
Now, some are using the virus itself as leverage, threatening to infect people unless they send funds.
The Daily Beast identified a scam after reviewing a confidential document from the New York Police Department (NYPD). The fraud scheme follows a blackmail model, with scammers using the leverage of having something that scares an individual to pressure them into paying. In this case, the scammers are saying they have the ability to give people coronavirus unless their financial demands are met.
The Daily Beast says it’s “unclear” how the scammers would actually go about infecting people. John Miller, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism, told the site the scam is “far-fetched but it’s playing on people’s fears.”
The NYPD document notes that “this type of fraud has had limited success.”
Though this is a particularly cruel scam, it’s unfortunately one of many ploys targeting internet users over the past month. Government agencies, social media sites, and individuals have all reported incidents preying on people’s particular fears and needs during this time.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers a list of tips for identifying coronavirus scams. Phishing emails are some of the most common, often claiming to be from government organizations. Others pretend to offer vitally-needed medical supplies or testing in exchange for personal information.
While we’re at it, a reminder not to be a scammer yourself (yes, tip baiting does count).