There are warnings that scammers are taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak to carry out investment frauds.
Such frauds involve claims that a company’s products or services will be used to help stop the COVID-19 epidemic, according to an alert issued by the United States’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
“We have become aware of a number of Internet promotions, including on social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure coronavirus, and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result,” the SEC said. The promotions often take the form of so-called “research reports” and make predictions of a specific “target price.”
SEC is urging investors to be wary of such claims and to be aware of the huge potential for fraud at this time. Specifically, it calls for caution over offers that involve microcap stocks, usually made as part of fraudulent “pump-and-dump” schemes.
The SEC’s warning has been echoed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which says fraudsters are setting up websites to sell bogus products, and use fake emails, text messages and social media posts to take money and steal personal details. “The emails and posts may be promoting awareness and prevention tips, and fake information about cases in your neighbourhood. They also may be asking you to donate to victims, offering advice on unproven treatments, or contain malicious email attachments,” FTC says.
Meanwhile the Center for Internet Security (CIS) also warns of cyber threat actors leveraging on the outbreak to conduct financial fraud and disseminate malware.
CIS’ Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center has noted in recent weeks the registration of names containing the phrase “coronavirus.” The Center said the majority of these new domains include a combination of the words “help,” “relief,” “victims,” and “recover” and should be viewed with caution.
It said malicious actors are likely to post links to fake charities and fraudulent websites that solicit donations for relief efforts or deliver malware. Similar scams and malware dissemination campaigns were seen in response to previous high-profile events including Hurricane Harvey, the Boston Marathon bombing, the Royal Wedding, and the Tennessee wildfires. “We expect that this trend will continue with the emergence of new and recycled scams involving financial fraud and malware related to the coronavirus outbreak,” the Center said.
Separately, several protection and indemnity (P&I) clubs providing maritime insurance have issued guidance for their members on potential legal issues that may arise in the event ship crew members become ill.
West P&I notes that vessel deviation for the purpose of saving life is permissible and that many standard charters will give ship owners the right to deviate in such circumstances.
The Club also lays out advice on whether charterers can claim for additional bunkers used and in the case of voyage charters whether owners are able to claim additional freight if a ship deviates. North P&I Club has developed a digital interactive map with data sourced from the World Health Organization for its members’ use to identify commercial risks and physical threats to shipping around the world. The tool provides live updates on the number of confirmed cases of the virus, countries at risk and what to look out for.