Crypto scam uses conflict to plunder donations

Thursday, 19 October, 2023

Crypto scam uses conflict to plunder donations

Bitdefender has released findings on a series of scams running off the back of the Israel–Gaza conflict. The scams surfaced 13 October, less than one week after the conflict began.

The organisation’s Antispam Lab started seeing email scam campaigns for disaster relief and help for refugees as cybercriminals took the opportunity to benefit financially by exploiting the goodwill and charity of others.

While deplorable, the behaviour is not unexpected, as scammers continually seek new ways to line their digital pockets. The escalating conflict between Israel and militant Palestinian groups has spurred new scam opportunities and cybercriminal groups have already begun targeting consumers’ inboxes with fraudulent correspondence. Many of the spam emails were directed towards inboxes in Russia, followed by Sweden, Romania, Iran and India, as well as the US, Japan, Germany and the UK.

The email scams are similar to the spam trends observed by Bitdefender researchers from the war in Ukraine, specifically crypto donations and advance-fee scams, piggybacking on the humanitarian crisis and victims on both sides of the conflict.

The scams are similar to those observed following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Despite thousands of victims and the genuine need for assistance, cybercriminals continue their spam attacks without regard, masquerading as both victims and false charities to con internet users and deprive those who are truly in need of help.

As the armed conflict continues into its second week, Bitdefender expects this type of scam email to be regularly delivered to inboxes of users worldwide, with fraudsters continuing to adjust their ‘stories’ and donation requests in line with the latest news and updates.

Bitdefender said the best way to remain safe is to closely inspect all war-related communications, whether via email, phone, text or social media. Always research the organisation before making any payment — donation requests in crypto, wire transfers and gift cards are a red flag to be avoided at all costs. Responding to emails that are known scams is not recommended, as it verifies the validity of target email addresses, which usually encourages continued malicious correspondence.

To donate securely to the real victims, utilise legitimate channels to access charity organisations that can provide help and emergency services to those in need.

Image credit: Hao

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