In light of this increase in cybercrime, New York Attorney General Letitia James asks GoDaddy and five additional internet registrars to halt and de-list domain names used for coronavirus-related scams and fake remedies. The Attorney sent letters to domain name registrars — including GoDaddy.com, Dynadot.com, Name.com, Namecheap.com, and Registrar.com, and the Endurance International Group, which owns Bluehost.com, Domain.com, and HostGator.com. The letter asked to stop bad actors from taking advantage of the current crisis and commit to removing the scam domains, and the registration and use of internet domain names by individuals trying to unlawfully and fraudulently profit off consumers' fears around the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Cybercriminals use those domains to conduct phishing campaigns, malware dissemination, deceptive advertising, and other attacks.
The registration and creation of these fraudulent websites could violate multiple laws, including, but not limited to, General Business Law § 349, Executive Law § 63(12), and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030, as well as the internet registrars' terms of service for domain registration.
Since COVID-19 initially began to spread in January, the Attorney General (O.A.G.) office discovered a spike in a significant number of coronavirus-related domain registration.
One independent study found that three percent of domains registered since January mentioning coronavirus are actively malicious, with an additional five-percent categorized as suspicious. These sites have not only marketed fake “treatments” and “vaccines,” but have also potentially created fake “charities” and even coronavirus-related investment opportunities for individuals to invest their money in.
Attorney General James said: “In this time of uncertainty, it's more important than ever that we remain cautious when it comes to companies and individuals selling coronavirus-related products and services over the internet. These scam sites are stoking fear in Americans' hearts and minds, but are profiting off their appalling deception. We need all consumers to remain vigilant. My office continues to work diligently to take down these websites and ensure scammers, cons, and cheats are held responsible for their unlawful actions. I encourage any individual with information related to these scam sites to immediately report them to my office.”
Separately, to support New Yorkers in the fight against the coronavirus, Attorney General James sent a letter to Craigslist.com earlier today, calling on the company to immediately remove posts that attempt to price gouge users, or otherwise purport to sell items that provide “immunity” to the coronavirus or allow individuals to test for the disease.
Attorney General James has also already sent multiple cease and desist letters to individuals and companies selling and marketing certain products as treatments or cures for the coronavirus, including Alex Jones, The Silver Edge company, Dr. Sherrill Sellman, televangelist Jim Bakker, and others.
There is currently no Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.)-approved vaccine to prevent the disease or treatment from curing it, and the World Health Organization has also said that there is no specific medicine to prevent or treat the coronavirus.
Additionally, Attorney General James has issued cease and desist notifications to multiple businesses in New York for charging excessive prices for hand sanitizers, disinfectant sprays, and rubbing alcohol — a violation of New York's price gouging statute. That statute prohibits the sale of goods and services necessary for consumers' health, safety, and welfare at unconscionably excessive prices during an abnormal disruption of the market.
The O.A.G. continues to surveil and monitor businesses across the state for potential scams and price gouging schemes designed to exploit public concern related to the coronavirus's spread. Scammers commonly exploit real public health concerns and heightened public fear to prey on consumers and profit from fraud related to those health fears. If a consumer believes they have been victims of a scam or have witnessed potential price gouging, they can report these incidents to the O.A.G.
Earlier this week, Attorney General James also announced that the O.A.G. would temporarily halt the collection of medical and student debt owed to the State of New York and referred to the Office of the Attorney General for collection, for at least 30 days between March 16, 2020, through April 15, 2020, in response to growing financial impairments resulting from the spread of the coronavirus. Countless New Yorkers have been impacted — directly or indirectly — by the spread of COVID-19, forcing them to forgo income and business. After these 30 days, the O.A.G. will reassess the needs of state residents for a possible extension. Additionally, the O.A.G. will accept applications for suspension of all other types of debt owed to the State of New York and referred to the O.A.G. for collection.
Source: Press Release Date: March 20, 2020 ag.ny.gov