Darknet markets are seeing increases of suspicious merchandise advertised to protect or even fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The sales are conducted in several countries using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as the primary payment method.
Selling Coronavirus Merchandise Via Crypto
The rapidly expanding novel virus scared a lot of people, and they rushed to purchase protective gear such as N95 respirator masks. Naturally, the increased demand and the limited supply boosted the price of the desired items to incredible highs.
Darknet e-commerce websites are also trying to exploit the situation, according to a recent report. Not only are they displaying significant supplies, but the prices listed are quite attractive – N95 masks in bulk at approximately $1.75 per one. Just for reference, buyers can locate such masks from legitimate marketplaces such as Amazon or eBay for $10 per piece.
The item list of coronavirus-related products does not end here. The Darknet platforms offer “COVID-19 test strips” for $92 each – another essential product at this time.
What’s even more disturbing is that the websites offer coronavirus “cures.” While no therapeutics and vaccines currently in development have proven to be effective against the virus yet, some platforms sell the President Trump-endorsed chloroquine. It’s a treatment for malaria, and its price on the darknet, however, could reach up to $500 per 150 pills.
The report also outlined some of the marketing strategies implemented by sellers. Those include “Coronavirus discounts” and “COVID-19 end of the world special offers.” One particularly compelling listing, “Corona LockDown Survival Pack” contains cannabis and toilet paper.
As usual, the preferred payment methods for any darknet operations are cryptocurrencies:
“They are popular with criminals, as buyers and sellers are largely untraceable, and payment is made anonymously in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.”
COVID-19 Bitcoin Scams
While the mentioned above products seem suspicious, to say the least, there have been numerous virus-related proven scams. Cryptopotato reported one of them a few weeks ago.
It involved malware gangs impersonating the World Health Organization and charities linked to it. The perpetrators sent phishing emails and pitched expensive, guaranteed Corona-proof masks or guides on how to protect your family safe during the pandemic. In return, they requested payments via Bitcoin.
The scammers even created an application to supposedly track real-time coronavirus data on the victim’s street, city, state, and country.
A scientist operating on the matter warned that these are indeed fraudulent activities, and people should avert from sending any payments to unconfirmed entities.