Scammers have been quick to exploit a rise in the value of web-based, crypto-currency Bitcoin by launching bogus online schemes with the lure of false money-making offers.
What Happened to Bitcoin?
At the beginning of March, the value of a unit of Bitcoin exceeded the value of an ounce of gold for the first time. The markets recorded the value of a unit of Bitcoin at $1,268, compared to a troy ounce of gold at $1,233.
Crime and Bitcoin
The fact that Bitcoin allows payments to be transferred easily, quickly and anonymously (because it is outside of central banks and government control), across borders, continents and time-zones, and that there is no person / body / organisation to complain to if money is taken from a Bitcoin wallet, are factors that are often reported as being attractive to criminal elements of society e.g. money launderers and organised crime gangs. These features have also made Bitcoin a popular means for ransomware distributors to seek payments from their victims.
The recent rise in Bitcoin’s value and a general lack of knowledge about the currency have made it ideal ‘bait’ for those looking to make the mythical ‘easy money’. This has led to a number of news scams being operated such as:
- Scams that take users to phishing sites e.g. using real brand names as cover. These can also install malware on employee computers, which can then lead to the same companies being hit again.
- Bogus Bitcoin search services.
- Fake surveys about Bitcoin.
- Exaggerated and misleading offers about Bitcoin.
- Bogus old-style pyramid scams, dressed up with Bitcoins.
- Social media scams.
What Can You Do To Protect Yourself / Your Company?
Firstly, it is important to be aware that Bitcoin scams are highly prevalent now and to inform / educate staff that they need to be vigilant and that a system / procedure needs to be in place to encourage checking and reporting. Companies who already deal with Bitcoins in any capacity will need to be particularly careful as this could be used by scammers as a point of leverage.
Businesses can also make sure that malicious sites are identified and blocked, and that any scams noticed on social media platforms are reported immediately to those platforms.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Clearly, extra vigilance is needed at the present time for any Bitcoin-related offers and / or communications, and it is important to make sure that staff members are made aware of this through education. Having good cyber security systems and procedures in place anyway, however, can provide protection from multiple, popular forms of scams, and popular data / cyber security risks. It is important also to make sure that your business has adequate and up-to-date Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plans in place should e.g. human error lead to your business falling victim to such a scam.