How ISIS used Facebook to scam people needing face masks
In the past few months, we have seen a number of instances of fraudsters using COVID-19 to con unsuspecting people. From fake websites to emails, they have used all sorts of techniques to social engineer their target and get money, personal information out of them. Now, in a major shocker, a report has revealed that even ISIS was involved in this trickery. Here's how.
FaceMaskCenter for medical grade masks
Back in March, when the US had just begun enforcing lockdown orders to contain COVID-19, health professionals were in desperate need of medical-grade FDA-approved N95 respirator masks. In that crisis, an online store going by the name FaceMaskCenter.com came as a ray of hope and claimed to have nearly unlimited supply of the masks for businesses in need.
'PPE equipment provider since 1996'
On its website, the store described itself as a leading PPE provider since 1996. "Owned and operated by sanitary experts, we pride ourselves on our product knowledge and quality customer service, so you can have a safe and seamless online shopping experience," read the site. "We now are serving online with our range of face masks, gloves, goggles, protective suits, and thermometers."
However, Justice Department found that the store was ISIS-linked
Now, just recently, the US Department of Justice has revealed that the store in question was a part of a scam run by known "ISIS facilitator" Murat Cakar. Cakar, the department said, promoted the PPE website through four Facebook pages, some of which are still active on the social network, to trick unsuspecting businesses into buying seemingly legit but counterfeit masks from the site.
Selling hundreds of thousands of masks
Cakar tried selling hundreds of thousands of fake, substandard masks around the globe, including one customer in the United States. The DOJ did not reveal the customer's name or if they were duped by the scheme, but it clarified that they wanted to buy N95 masks for hospitals, nursing homes, and fire departments.
Site is down, Facebook pages remain active
Following the discovery, the site was taken down by the US authorities and is no longer accessible. "The claim that the website launched in 1996 is demonstrably false," the DOJ said. "Publicly-available website registration records revealed that the website was created from an IP address in Turkey on February 26, 2020." The FB pages remain active but Facebook is expected to deactivate them soon.
Funds for terror financing
While typical COVID-19 scams are aimed at stealing money, this ISIS-led effort is believed to be a part of a bigger threat - funding of terror activities. DOJ said, "The US has averted victimization of those seeking COVID-19 masks, and disrupted the funding of ISIS."