Scammers Claim to Sell Covid-19 Vaccines on the Dark Web

As millions of people around the world await to get the Covid-19 vaccines, scammers online have taken advantage of the pandemic. These scammers have resulted in various means of scamming people like luring victims through messaging apps and emails, claiming that they can get shots of the vaccine for as low as $150, within days.

The recent online scams, as discovered by cybersecurity firm Check Point, revealed that scammers on the dark web are claiming to sell Covid-19 vaccines and demanding payments in bitcoin. There has reportedly been an upsurge of so-called Covid-19 sellers on the dark web. These sellers have been putting out advertisements for the vaccines and asking for bitcoin as payment, failing to deliver the goods to their victims.

The dark web is a hidden part of the internet where ‘dark and shady’ deals are transacted. It can only be accessed by using special software and is known as the online marketplace for firearms, drugs, and other illegal goods.

The cybersecurity firm’s search query for vaccines on the dark web turned in a result of more than 340 ads in 34 pages, compared to the 8 pages from a similar search ran in December 2020. Adding that the average price of $250 for an undisclosed vaccine dose has now doubled or quadrupled to $500 and $1000, respectively.

Check Point researchers placed an order or the unspecified vaccine dose from a seller they came across on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app. The seller offered the researchers a made-in-China dose of vaccine for $750 worth of bitcoin. The researchers paid for the order and sent their delivery address, but are yet to receive the package.

Another seller contacted by the researchers claimed to sell 13 doses of an unspecified Covid-19 vaccine for $300 worth of bitcoin.

There is a reasonable reason why these so-called scammers prefer bitcoin as a mode of payment. Bitcoin is a decentralized and anonymous form of payment that was untraceable in previous times but has become more traceable recently. Check Point also said the main reason why many people are falling victims to this scam is impatience to wait for legitimate vaccines to get to them.

“We believe this is because of a spike in demand from individuals who don’t wish to wait weeks or months to receive their vaccination from their countries’ governments,” Check Point said in a blog post. “Unfortunately, while most of us are watching with hope, there are some watching with greed and malice in their minds, with the intent of capitalizing people’s concerns about Covid-19 and desire to be protected against the risk of catching it.”

The Check Point research also revealed that several sellers claim to supply their vaccines in bulk rather than single shots. One seller said they could sell as much as 10,000 vial order at a total price of $30,000.

In another research by Reuters, more online scams were discovered, especially on the dark web and Telegram. Researchers from Reuters found seven different offers of unspecified Covid-19 vaccines.

Some of the scams include emails that promise potential victims easy entry to allegedly secret lists for early vaccines. Some robocallers impersonate government agencies to lure more people in.

The United States FBI and Interpol, among other government security agencies have warned of the increasing Covid-19-related scams, saying that there are many false vaccines and cures advertised on shady websites which ultimately poses a risk to people’s health.

“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,” said a Pfizer spokesman, in a statement.

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