As slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout frustrates users, online scams related to vaccine shots for $150 surges high.
Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to be locked in their houses. After months of researchers and trials, the scientists and experts are about to roll out the vaccine shots for people.
However, the wait is just getting unbearable for users, and thus everyone wants them as soon as possible. As by now, the vaccines are only new months away.
So taking advantage of this, the online scammers are lurking people via emails and on messaging apps like Telegram claiming that they can deliver the shots for as little as $150 within days.
According to European and US government officials, the online scams related to COVID-19 vaccine are rising high. So they are warning the public to stay vigilant of the fraudsters risking their money and personal data.
According to Reuters search online, they found 7 different types of scams in dark web forums and on messaging app Telegram allegedly offering COVID-19 vaccines.
The COVID-19 Vaccine Shots for $150 Scam
The phishing scam supposedly includes a secret list for early vaccine access along with robocalls that impersonate government agencies.
Additionally, the message boards on the so-called dark web added the COVID-19 vaccines to more traditional illicit goods for sale.
The U.S. FBI and Interpol, among others, have warned of emerging pandemic-related fraud schemes, saying false cures and vaccines advertised on fake websites could pose cyber threats and a significant risk to peoples’ health, or even lives.
Websites with domain names containing the word “vaccine” along with COVID-19/coronavirus have more than doubled since October 2020 to around 2,500 in November. This was when the first legitimate vaccines were nearing the regulatory approval, according to cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, which is tracking the COVID-19 online scams.
“So far a lot of these domains just appear to be opportunistic registrations, but some are going to be used for phishing attempts to have people click on (malicious) links,” said Lindsay Kaye, director of operational outcomes at Recorded Future.
Kaye, who also scours the dark web, said to her team that they have not come across any legitimate vaccines that were diverted from healthcare facilities or national stockpiles.
The scams are taking advantage of the people’s concerns about the rollout of the vaccine.
In the U.S, till of Monday only about 4.5 millions of people have got their first shot, reports the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to previous government forecasts, this is just a fraction of 20 million people, who were supposed to be vaccinated by the end of 2020.
Most likely people have to wait till the spring or even summer to get the shots.
VACCINES, GUNS AND MONEY
On dark web forum Agartha, fake COVID-19 vaccines were offered next to cocaine, opioid medication, “super high quality fake money,” hand guns and gift cards. Posts showed stock photos of vaccines and offered vials for $500 and $1,000, or the equivalent in Bitcoin.
On another dark web site, a seller claiming to be from the “Wuhan Institute of Science” offered COVID-19 vaccines in exchange for a donation, and asked buyers to provide their medical history.
On Telegram, several channels claimed to offer COVID-19 vaccines, accompanied by stock images. One user offered supposed Moderna Inc vaccines for $180, and claimed the vaccine from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE could be had for $150 and AstraZeneca’s for $110 per vial.
Asked how the vaccines would be shipped, the account creator said they were transported in “regulated temperature packs” and ice packs within a few days, or overnight for an additional charge.
The COVID-19 Vaccine
Actual COVID-19 vaccines, particularly the Pfizer/BioNTech offering, must be temperature controlled to remain effective. Along with drug makers equipping shipments with temperature trackers to ensure the cold chain. Vaccine shipments and distribution are also tightly controlled by officials and will be administered at no cost.
The United States has so far authorized two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use –
- Pfizer/BioNTech and
The European Union to date has authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and is expected to clear the Moderna vaccine this week.
The UK has already authorized those two and just added the vaccine developed by Oxford University with AstraZeneca.
Asked about vaccine scams, Pfizer said it had taken meticulous steps to reduce the risk of counterfeiting and tracked trends very carefully.
“Patients should never try to secure a vaccine online – no legitimate vaccine is sold online – and only get vaccinated at certified vaccination centers or by certified healthcare providers,” a Pfizer spokesman said in a statement.
Moderna referred a request for comment to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which did not respond. AstraZeneca did not respond to a request for comment.