In the last week, we’ve seen multiple coronavirus scams pushed by bad actors, including RAT attacks via fake health advisories, bogus e-books working in tandem with Trojans, and lots of other phishing shenanigans. Now we have another one to add to the ever-growing list: dubious coronavirus Bitcoin missives landing in your inbox.
Reworking a classic spam tacticThis is a retooling of an older spam run involving British comedian Jim Davidson, the older form of which was seen bouncing around in November 2019. As they put it, “Jim Davidson bounced back from bankruptcy with Bitcoin.” Even before that, in the first half of 2019, he was being used alongside other well-known British celebrities such as Jamie Oliver and daytime TV presenters to promote a variety of misleading Bitcoin get-rich schemes. This is common for Bitcoin scams, and you can dip into any year you like and find a few of these floating around at any given time.
What do we have this time?In short, these coronavirus Bitcoin scams are older attempts to have people part with their cash hastily retooled to make hay with the current global pandemic. It’s incredibly lazy—the landing pages and follow on websites seem to be untouched from whenever they first appeared. The only new ingredient is the email content mentioning coronavirus, but sadly, that's often more than enough to have people part with their money.
Click to enlargeIt begins with a non-stop drip-feed of emails, from many different addresses pumping out spam. In the above mailbox, it’s a total of 11 in six days. All of the email addresses are rather optimistically called “coronavirus positives”, letting you know that staying at home thanks to a global pandemic can actually make you rich beyond your wildest dreams.
Some of the subject lines read as follows:
Staying at home because of COVID-19!! Spend your time making thousands on Bitcoins.Without a larger sample selection to go from, we can’t say which missive is the most popular subject line, but the one mentioning “work from home” is at least the most popular in this particular mailbox and a few others that we've seen.
The positive impact of staying home (Corona-virus), Make thousand a day trading Bitcoin.
Join 1000s of Brits making 1000s a day. Bitcoin is back – and this time you can make a million.
Coronavirus Bitcoin email styleThe emails are formatted in much the same way, emulating the British newspaper "red top" style—most specifically, The Sun.
Here’s the text from one of the samples we looked at:
Click to enlarge
Click to enlargeThe text reads as follows:
Jim Davidson Reveals How He Bounced Back After The Bankruptcy - He claims anyone can do it & shows 'Good Morning Britain' How!Here’s one that emulates The Sun to a high degree, complete with almost-but-not-quite name using the same font as the well-known newspaper:
Appearing on 'Good Morning Britain' show, Jim Davidson, a man who has recovered from Bankruptcy thanks to an automated Bitcoin trading platform, called BTC Profit . The idea was simple: allow the average person the opportunity to cash in on the Bitcoin boom. Even if they have absolutely no investing or technology experience.
A user would simply make an initial deposit into the platform, usually of £200 (or $250, as the platform works with USD) or more, and the automated trading algorithm would go to work. Using a combination of data and machine learning, the algorithm would know the perfect time to buy Bitcoin low and sell high, maximising the user's profit.
To demonstrate the power of the platform Jim had Kate Garraway deposited £200 on the live show.
Click to enlargeIn the above mail, a student reveals how “he earns more than £40,000 every month working from home.” Some of the links are now seemingly broken, and a few redirect to Google or random shopping sites such as the below if you presumably visit from a region they’re not interested in:
Click to enlargeNot all of the links are broken, however. A few will indeed lead you to the supposed Bitcoin promised land.
Getting rich quick?What you’ll see on a live page is essentially a rehash of the information in the email, complete with a few more familiar faces from UK daytime television. At this point, the coronavirus hook has been entirely abandoned:
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Click to enlargeAfter a lot of urging the visitor to sign up to some sort of wonderful Bitcoin system, clicking the links will finally take them to the end game:
Click to enlargeIt’s a landing page promoting something called “Bitcoin Revolution.” This has been around for a while, usually in relation to dubious ads featuring the previously mentioned celebrities.
Access is given to a trading platform, a fair amount of money is deposited into it over time, an “investment manager” asks you to deposit their commission into a bank account so they can release your funds, and…oh dear. This is the part where people report the funds never arrive and now they’re massively out of pocket.
Profiting from chaosEndlessly spamming these "get rich quick" emails to people in normal circumstances is bad enough, but jumping on the coronavirus bandwagon to claim people can make a fortune from working from home is dreadful. This is absolutely the worst time to end up losing a significant amount of savings—they may prove to be absolutely essential further down the line.
If you receive one of these mails and they're not automatically placed into your spam folder, report, delete, and move on. We have a feeling you won't be making your millions from this one.