The United States Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has issued an alert to warn financial institutions of fraud and cyberattacks related to COVID-19 vaccines.
As vaccination against the COVID-19 coronavirus is kicking off worldwide, fraudsters and other types of threat actors are attempting to capitalize on the situation by selling illegal or counterfeit goods, conducting phishing, targeting unsuspecting users with malware, and more.
Last week, several U.S. government organizations issued a warning of increasingly frequent fraud and phishing attacks, aimed at gathering personally identifiable information (PII) and stealing money.
Recent reporting has revealed that such attacks might also be the work of state-sponsored threat actors, which are also interested in targeting COVID-19 vaccine research.
In its newly released alert, FinCEN tells financial institutions to be wary of “potential for fraud, ransomware attacks, or similar types of criminal activity related to COVID-19 vaccines and their distribution.”
FinCEN has also published Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) filing instructions. Financial institutions are required to report suspicious transactions through SARs to help authorities disrupt terrorist, money laundering, drug trafficking, cybercrime and other types of illegal operations.
Leveraging the increased public interest in COVID-19 vaccines, fraudsters might attempt to sell unapproved and illegally marketed vaccines, counterfeit vaccines, or illegal diversion of legitimate vaccines, FinCEN says.
“Already, fraudsters have offered, for a fee, to provide potential victims with the vaccine sooner than permitted under the applicable vaccine distribution plan,” the alert reads.
Cybercriminals too are involved in COVID-19 vaccine-related activity, including ransomware attacks that directly target vaccine research. Thus, FinCEN warns financial institutions of potential ransomware attacks targeting either supply chains involved in the manufacturing of vaccines, or the vaccine delivery operations.
“Financial institutions and their customers should also be alert to phishing schemes luring victims with fraudulent information about COVID-19 vaccines,” FinCEN warns.
The Treasury recently issued an advisory to warn companies that facilitate ransomware payments of the potential legal implications resulting from sending money to sanctioned entities.
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