Moscow’s Fraudsters Sell Fake #COVID19 Travel Passes

Muscovite fraudsters are capitalizing on the city’s COVID-19 lockdown by offering to sell desperate citizens the digital passes they now need to travel around the city.

Singapore-based security vendor Group-IB said it had helped identify 126 websites, Telegram channels and social media accounts peddling the fake passes.

As of April 15, locals have been forced to request a digital permit featuring a QR code in order to travel around the Russian capital using public or personal transport, according to an order issued by mayor Sergei Sobyanin.

However, before the official system for applications was up and running, scammers apparently stepped into the void to offer the passes, charging between $38-$65.

Group-IB said it managed to identify those behind one of the campaigns, which offered passes for Moscow, St Petersburg and Krasnodar.

Using a well-known messaging app to communicate with potential customers, they passed themselves off as law enforcers, and asked for passport or vehicle registration and license plate details.

Unfortunately, once the money was received, they would delete the chat, blacklist the victim and move on to the next target, the vendor explained.

Several arrests have been made in that case, and Group-IB is continuing to work with the Moscow Department of Information Technology on other scam campaigns. It claimed that 78 fraudulent websites, social media accounts and messenger channels have been blocked so far.

“Amid the pandemic scammers actively exploit the coronavirus, self-isolation and lockdown passes themes in various phishing and vishing scams, and offer to sell fake digital passes,” said Sergey Lupanin, head of cyber-investigations at Group-IB.

“The danger is that by purchasing fake lockdown passes the victims can not only lose their money and payment data, but also sensitive personal information. For example, by obtaining the victim’s ID number fraudsters can apply for a loan on their behalf.”

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