How to fraudulently receive COVID-19 relief funds: guides are available on dark markets

Many countries around the World have approved COVID-19 special relief packages to economically support a wide range of their citizens. These funds often require that certain conditions are met, like being unemployed or having the business temporarily suspended. As anticipated here by a previous news coverage, there are listings on dark web markets (DWMs) that propose methods to fraudulently receive COVID-19 special funds. How does the presence of such listings on DWMs evolve over time?

We found that the evolution of guide-related listings on DWMs is related to major COVID-19 special relief packages approved in the USA only. The first appearance of these listings is in late March - when the Cares act was signed by former USA’s President Trump - and then the number of these listings steadily increased until May, as shown by the Figure above. Second and third peaks in guide-related listings were measured in July and September, in correspondence to the extension of the Small Business Administration (SBA) loan and the failure in the negotiation for the Heroes act, respectively.

Currently, there are only a few guide-related listings on DWMs. Incoming COVID-19 relief funds are likely to foster another wave of these listings on DWMs. Stay tuned!

If you are interested in more details on COVID-19 related listings, some relevant examples can be found here.

How to cite:

Want to cite and/or use the information provided in this page? It is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 - please cite our ongoing monitoring effort as follows:

A. Bracci, M. Nadini, M. Aliapoulios, D. McCoy, I. Gray, A. Teytelboym, A. Gallo, A. Baronchelli. Dark Web Marketplaces and COVID-19: before the vaccine. EPJ Data Science 10.1 (2021): 1-26

Mon Dec 21 2020




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The research presented in the website is supported by the "COVID-19: Monitoring the effects of the pandemic on illicit online trade" project funded by the ESRC. Content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) unless otherwise specified in single posts.