Coronavirus Presents Opportunity for Bitcoin Scammers

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A number of counties in the UK have reported a rise in crypto scams, many relating themselves in some way to the Coronavirus. Scammers pretend to be WHO and CDC officials, demanding a sum of Bitcoin.

Interestingly, scammers offer information in exchange for payment, including the names of people who have tested positive for Coronavirus in their area. None of this is actually forthcoming, and the phishing emails offload a virus that probably locks the system down in exchange for an extortion payment.

Coronavirus Displays An Inconvenient Truth About Bitcoin

Once again, novel Coronavirus brings out novel questions about cryptocurrency. The fact that it’s used in ransomware probably shouldn’t be held against the technology as a whole; it’s not the fault of regular crypto investors that scammers find it most convenient to use Bitcoin.

One argument, made over and over, is that it’s actually the fault of the victims in every ransomware case. Either clicking random links in email, which lead to downloading ransomware, or having an insecure system in the first place. In either case, some argue, it’s truly the fault of the system administrator in charge of the victimized systems.

Scammers have long utilized people’s fears in their campaigns, and the reported efforts in the Coronavirus scamming haven’t been much different. After all, a list of names of people who have tested positive for the virus might seem useful to a certain set of fearful people. Paying for it might seem extreme, but worthwhile. But nothing is likely forthcoming from making that payment.

Probably the only time it’s appropriate to make a payment to a Bitcoin scammer is when you have to in order to unlock something locked down by ransomware.

Cryptocurrency is a convenient tool for scammers, but it may not be the perfect one. After all, things like Bitcoin are far from anonymous. Companies such as Chainalysis can track the movement of funds, and ultimately identify a crypto user who is using certain types of cryptocurrency.

Why Bitcoin?

Other cryptos, like Monero, are harder to trace. It takes a monumental effort to trace a single Monero transaction, while it takes little effort at all to trace hundreds of BTC transactions.

To date, though, that is simply the nature of the blockchain; to be pseudonymous and transparent. Other renditions, like Monero, have taken a different approach, requiring keys even to access basic information about a user or transaction.

Requiring such keys puts a fundamental, perhaps reasonable, limit on the number of people who can see a given transaction. This ultimately prevents blockchain tracking a la companies like Chainalysis. Monero, of course, was doing this before that company even came to exist.

So, why don’t scammers demand cryptos like Monero instead? It would seem to be the smart move, but ultimately it’s easier to direct victims to acquire Bitcoin.

There are numerous ways a normal person can buy Bitcoin these days. The scammer merely has to tell the victim how much, and where, to buy the BTC. This is not the same with things like Monero, where it may not be as immediately obvious how to buy the cryptocurrency. For lack of a better answer, scammers prefer Bitcoin because it’s simpler for their victims.