DOJ thwarting online coronavirus scams with help from internet companies

FBI has looked into more than 3,600 complaints of online scams

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The Justice Department announced Wednesday federal authorities have thwarted “hundreds” of online scams related to the novel coronavirus with the help of private companies, including internet domain providers.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center has looked into the more than 3,600 COVID-19-related complaints it’s received, as of April 21.

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The complaints were largely for scams carried out from sites that purported to be for bogus charity drives or advertised fake cures or prevention treatments, the department stated in a Wednesday press release.

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The websites often carried domain names that included the terms “coronavirus” or “covid19,” among others, and in some cases falsely indicated they were affiliated with or run by public health agencies, the department said.

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Through what the DOJ has called a “cooperative effort,” authorities have sent unspecified internet companies “hundreds” of referrals based on complaints from the public. These companies have, in turn, taken the steps of confirming the websites violated their policies and removed the domains.

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Many domain registries and registrars have also taken further steps of enlisting teams to examine their domains for illicit COVID-19-related activity, the department said.

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This “cooperative effort” has so far dismantled scammers’ efforts to use legitimate business websites to “facilitate the distribution or control of malicious software,” fake websites that imitate government programs and fraudulent sites purporting to be collecting money for the American Red Cross’s COVID-19 relief efforts, the DOJ said.

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