COVID-19 fraud domain seized from seller who attempted to sell it using bitcoin


U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia obtained a warrant Friday authorizing seizure of coronaprevention.org following an HSI Philadelphia investigation in support of Operation Stolen Promise.

HSI recently launched Operation Stolen Promise to protect the homeland and global supply-chain from the increasing and evolving threat posed by COVID-19-related fraud and criminal activity by combining HSI’s expertise in global trade investigations, financial fraud, and cyber investigations with robust private and public partnerships.

“Sadly, criminals are using the current pandemic as an opportunity to generate proceeds while so many Americans are suffering,” said William S. Walker, acting HSI Philadelphia special agent in charge. “Homeland Security Investigations and our partners will continue to aggressively pursue those who attempt to illegally capitalize on this crisis through illicit money-making schemes.”

The seizure warrant alleges that the owner of the domain name, coronaprevention.org, posted it for sale on a hackers forum.

The post appeared the day after the president declared a national emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The seller stated on the forum that this domain would be an effective way to sell “high markup in demand products.”

The seller exponentially marked up the price of the domain. The seller asked for the payment to be made via bitcoin.

The warrant further alleges that the seller engaged in conversations with an undercover agent from HSI about the sale of the domain. The seller stated that it was “genius” to sell “fake testing kits” using this domain.

The seller further stated that the seller “wanted to do that but I couldn’t get enough cash to bulk buy them from Alibaba [a Chinese e-commerce site].” The seller recommended directed the undercover agent on how to set up a new website on the domain using a foreign-based service, so as to prevent U.S. authorities from being able to shut it down in the future.

“We will not tolerate exploitation of this national emergency for personal gain,” said U.S. Attorney Tim Shea. “This office will not allow fraudsters to use anonymous online spaces and cryptocurrency to hide their harmful activities and prey on victims.”

The charges in the warrant are merely allegations, and civil forfeiture proceedings will commence in which any interested party may make a claim to ownership of the seized property.

The enforcement action against the owner of a fraudulent website follows Attorney General William Barr’s recent direction for the department to prioritize the detection, investigation, and prosecution of illegal conduct related to the pandemic.

The case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Zia M. Faruqui, Paralegal Specialist Brian Rickers, and Legal Assistant Jessica McCormick of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

As part of Operation Stolen Promise, HSI is partnering with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Secret Service, the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Five Eyes Law Enforcement Working Group. Additionally, efforts span multiple HSI components including the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, HSI International Operations, the Illicit Finance and Proceeds of Crime Unit, and the Cyber Crimes Center.

As of April 23, 2020, HSI special agents have opened over 232 cases initiated, 376 total seizures, 329 leads sent, 70 disruptions, seized over three million dollars in illicit proceeds; made six arrests; executed 12 search warrants; sinkholed over 11,000 COVID-19 domain names and worked alongside CBP to seize over 225 shipments of mislabeled, fraudulent, unauthorized or prohibited COVID-19 test kits, treatment kits, homeopathic remedies, purported anti-viral products and personal protective equipment.

The launch of the operation is in direct response to a significant increase in criminal activity.

To report suspected illicit criminal activity or fraudulent schemes related to the COVID-19 pandemic, email Covid19Fraud@dhs.gov.

ICE.gov (April 2020)COVID-19 fraud domain seized from seller who attempted to sell it using bitcoin

Justice Department Files Its First Enforcement Action Against COVID-19 Fraud

The Department of Justice announced today that it has taken its first action in federal court to combat fraud related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.


Federal Court Issues Temporary Restraining Order Against Website Offering Fraudulent Coronavirus Vaccine

The Department of Justice announced today that it has taken its first action in federal court to combat fraud related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  

The enforcement action filed today in Austin against operators of a fraudulent website follows Attorney General William Barr’s recent direction for the department to prioritize the detection, investigation, and prosecution of illegal conduct related to the pandemic.

As detailed in the civil complaint and accompanying court papers filed on Saturday, March 21, 2020, the operators of the website “coronavirusmedicalkit.com” are engaging in a wire fraud scheme seeking to profit from the confusion and widespread fear surrounding COVID-19.  

Information published on the website claimed to offer consumers access to World Health Organization (WHO) vaccine kits in exchange for a shipping charge of $4.95, which consumers would pay by entering their credit card information on the website.  

In fact, there are currently no legitimate COVID-19 vaccines and the WHO is not distributing any such vaccine.  In response to the department’s request, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman issued a temporary restraining order requiring that the registrar of the fraudulent website immediately take action to block public access to it.

“The Department of Justice will not tolerate criminal exploitation of this national emergency for personal gain,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.  “We will use every resource at the government’s disposal to act quickly to shut down these most despicable of scammers, whether they are defrauding consumers, committing identity theft, or delivering malware.”

“Attorney General Barr has directed the department to prioritize fraud schemes arising out of the coronavirus emergency,” said U.S. Attorney John F. Bash of the Western District of Texas.  “We therefore moved very quickly to shut down this scam.  We hope in the future that responsible web domain registrars will quickly and effectively shut down websites designed to facilitate these scams.  My office will continue to be aggressive in targeting these sorts of despicable frauds for the duration of this emergency.”

“At a time when we face such unprecedented challenges with the COVID-19 crisis, Americans are understandably desperate to find solutions to keep their families safe and healthy,” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs of the FBI’s San Antonio Field Office.  “Fraudsters who seek to profit from their fear and uncertainty, by selling bogus vaccines or cures, not only steal limited resources from our communities, they pose an even greater danger by spreading misinformation and creating confusion.  During this difficult time, protecting our communities from these reprehensible fraud schemes will remain one of the FBI’s highest priorities.”

The United States filed today’s announced action to shutter the website immediately while an investigation of the website and its operators continues.  In so doing, the government is employing a federal statute that permits federal courts to issue injunctions to prevent harm to potential victims of fraudulent schemes.

The Department of Justice recommends that Americans to take the following precautionary measures to protect themselves from known and emerging scams related to COVID-19:

  • Independently verify the identity of any company, charity, or individual that contacts you regarding COVID-19.
  • Check the websites and email addresses offering information, products, or services related to COVID-19. Be aware that scammers often employ addresses that differ only slightly from those belonging to the entities they are impersonating.  For example, they might use “cdc.com” or “cdc.org” instead of “cdc.gov.”
  • Be wary of unsolicited emails offering information, supplies, or treatment for COVID-19 or requesting your personal information for medical purposes. Legitimate health authorities will not contact the general public this way.
  • Do not click on links or open email attachments from unknown or unverified sources. Doing so could download a virus onto your computer or device.
  • Make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is operating and up to date.
  • Ignore offers for a COVID-19 vaccine, cure, or treatment. Remember, if a vaccine becomes available, you won’t hear about it for the first time through an email, online ad, or unsolicited sales pitch.
  • Check online reviews of any company offering COVID-19 products or supplies. Avoid companies whose customers have complained about not receiving items.
  • Research any charities or crowdfunding sites soliciting donations in connection with COVID-19 before giving any donation. Remember, an organization may not be legitimate even if it uses words like “CDC” or “government” in its name or has reputable looking seals or logos on its materials.  For online resources on donating wisely, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.
  • Be wary of any business, charity, or individual requesting payments or donations in cash, by wire transfer, gift card, or through the mail. Don’t send money through any of these channels.
  • Be cautious of “investment opportunities” tied to COVID-19, especially those based on claims that a small company’s products or services can help stop the virus. If you decide to invest, carefully research the investment beforehand.  For information on how to avoid investment fraud, visit the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) website.

For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, consumers may visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and WHO websites. 

In addition, the public is urged to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or by e-mailing the NCDF at disaster@leo.gov.

The enforcement action taken today is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Thomas A. Parnham, Jr. and Michael C. Galdo of the Western District of Texas, and Senior Litigation Counsel Ross S. Goldstein of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.  The FBI’s San Antonio Field Office is conducting the investigation.

The claims made in the complaint are allegations that, if the case were to proceed to trial, the government must prove to receive a permanent injunction against the defendant.

For information about the Department of Justice’s efforts to stop COVID-19 fraud, visit www.justice.gov/coronavirus.  Additional information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts may be found at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch.  For more information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas, visit its website at www.justice.gov/usao-wdtx.

Justice.gov (March 2020) Justice Department Files Its First Enforcement Action Against COVID-19 Fraud

SchoolSafety.gov Launches to Help Educators, Administrators, Parents, and Law Enforcement Prepare for Threats

The Trump Administration on Monday launched the Federal School Safety Clearinghouse website: SchoolSafety.gov.


DHS, ED, DOJ, HHS team up to provide government-wide resources for local schools and educators

The Trump Administration on Monday launched the Federal School Safety Clearinghouse website: SchoolSafety.gov.

This website is a one-stop-shop of resources for Kindergarten through Grade 12 (K-12) administrators, educators, parents and law enforcement to use to prepare for and address various threats related to safety, security, and support in schools.

President Trump established the Federal Commission on School Safety to review safety practices and make meaningful and actionable recommendations of best practices to keep students safe.

“School safety is the number one priority of parents across the country, which is why the President directed DHS and other federal agencies to form a taskforce and provide schools, teachers, parents, and law enforcement with resources to identify, prepare for, respond to, and mitigate threats, “said Chad Wolf, Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. “The Department provided expertise and resources on a range of school safety issues including threat assessments, physical security, emergency planning, and trainings and exercises designed to help schools and local law enforcement prepare for incidents. With these resources, schools and law enforcement will be better equipped to handle a crisis.”

“All students deserve a safe learning environment, and the Federal School Safety Clearinghouse is an essential resource for information and best practices,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, chair of the Federal Commission on School Safety. “Because every school community has its own unique needs, SchoolSafety.gov equips decision makers with resources for developing, customizing, and implementing actionable school safety plans.”

Soffe Men’s 3 Pack-USA Poly Cotton Military Tee

“Every child should feel safe at school, and every parent should feel their child is safe each day, too,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “SchoolSafety.gov will help equip schools with the tools they need to create safe, healthy environments, including resources for how to provide mental health services in schools. This new one-stop shop complements the evidence-based technical assistance HHS provides to local communities around mental health treatment, and we hope to see more and more schools explore these opportunities.”

“The Department of Justice has no higher priority than making sure our schools are safe and secure for our nation’s students, teachers and administrators,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “I am grateful for President Trump’s leadership in this cause and am honored to stand with the rest of the leadership of his Administration as we continue our efforts to promote school safety through schoolsafety.gov. The Department of Justice is deeply grateful for the sacrifice and commitment of our nation’s school resource officers and police officers who are on the front lines of keeping our schools and country safe every day.”

SchoolSafety.gov is a resource for the American public, primarily K-12 school administrators, to access free information, guidance, best practices, and tools that make school safety initiatives more actionable in schools. Today’s launch represents the first phase of SchoolSafety.gov and we look forward to continually expanding and refining resource materials in coordination with our partners and stakeholders.

The Federal School Safety Clearinghouse and SchoolSafety.gov were developed to fulfill one of the key recommendations from the Federal Commission on School Safety.

SchoolSafety.gov includes:

  • The School Safety Readiness Tool, an assessment that assists users in evaluating their respective school’s safety posture across ten foundational elements of school safety. After completing the assessment, users are provided an action plan with task prioritization, options for consideration, aligned resources, and grant opportunities specific to individual needs;
  • A Secure Information Sharing Platform for designated school personnel to share school safety ideas, practices, plans, and tactics in a protected environment; and
  • A wide array of resources and best practices on key school safety topics to assist with building awareness within the school community to promote vigilance and build capacity to respond to incidents.

SchoolSafety.gov empowers districts and schools to improve safety and security. Following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida in March 2018, President Trump established the Federal Commission on School Safety by Executive Order to make meaningful advancements in keeping students safe.

The Trump Administration and DHS also released the 2019 strategy for targeted violence that defines ways that the Department will enhance security with increased preparedness, promoting community readiness, and enhancing defensive measures. The Department will continue to develop new techniques in protective practices.

DHS.gov (February, 2020) SchoolSafety.gov Launches to Help Educators, Administrators, Parents, and Law Enforcement Prepare for Threats