Many virtual currency payment scams are exploiting COVID-19, from extortion, ransomware, and the sale of fraudulent medical products, to initial coin offering investment scams, which will likely continue to grow during the pandemic, asserted Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Director Ken Blanco today.

“This type of cybercrime in the COVID-19 environment is especially despicable, because these criminals leverage altered business operations, decreased mobility, and increased anxiety to prey on those seeking critical healthcare information and supplies, including the elderly and infirm,” the FinCEN chief told the virtual Consensus Blockchain Conference.

Stressing the cooperation of FinCEN with other law enforcement agencies, Blanco said the coordination is essential to get badly needed funds to the intended recipients who need it—some for their financial survival—not to exploitive COVID-19 criminals and fraudsters.

“The need for our collaboration is clear and undeniable,” he attested.

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Going deeper into the COVID-19 crime that is taking place, Blanco said because many business and government employees are doing their jobs from home, cybercriminals are targeting vulnerabilities in remote applications—including virtual private networks and remote desktop protocol exploits—to steal sensitive information and compromise transactions.

He said virtual currency businesses need to be vigilant against attacks targeting their onboarding and authentication processes, for example “deepfakes” manipulating digital images and account takeovers facilitated by credential stuffing attacks.

In addition to COVID-19 concerns, the FinCEN chief said FinCEN has worked alongside law enforcement initiatives like the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force (NCIJTF) and the Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) to investigate criminal networks exploiting virtual currency for the purchase of fentanyl.

To emphasize the extent of virtual currency exploitation problems for most of this decade, Blanco said since 2013 , FinCEN has received nearly 70,000 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) involving cryptocurrency fraud.