US Authorities Freeze COVID-19 Website Alleged Scammer Tried to Sell for Bitcoin

The U.S. departments of Justice and Homeland Security seized coronaprevention.org after its owner allegedly tried to sell it for $500 in bitcoin.

Apr 24, 2020 at 11:19 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 8:33 a.m. UTC

The U.S. departments of Justice (DOJ) and Homeland Security (DHS) have seized coronaprevention.org, alleging its owner tried to sell the domain for bitcoin after posting about it in a "hacker's forum."

Announced late Friday, the unidentified owner of the site tried to sell the domain to an undercover agent with the Department of Homeland Security's Criminal Investigations unit, who said they wanted to use the site to sell fake COVID-19 testing kits, a plan the owner reportedly said was "genius."

According to a warrant attached to the press release, the owner of coronaprevention.org, referred to as "Subject A," listed the domain for sale on a forum "known to focus on content related to, and populated by users interested in, hacking and hijacking online accounts" a day after U.S. President Donald Trump declared a national emergency due to the virus.

The undercover agent reached out, and Subject A allegedly said they were charging $500 payable in bitcoin for the domain (according to the warrant, such domains are usually closer to $20). The agent ultimately sent a partial payment to an undisclosed bitcoin address.

The news comes on the heels of the DOJ's announcement that it had "disrupted" hundreds of domains that were being used to shill scams related to COVID-19.

A list of the domains seized was not available, and it is unclear whether Friday's seizure was related. However, earlier this week a DOJ spokesperson told CoinDesk, “The department is aware of the reported increase in COVID-19-related fraud involving various virtual payment platforms and appreciates the proactive assistance of many in the cryptocurrency community to thwart those schemes.”

The spokesperson did not respond to an additional question about which entities it was working with.

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