Scammers Rush to Exploit Those Desperate to Get the Covid-19 Vaccine
As the Covid-19 vaccine rollout ramps up, more people are trying to get their Covid-19 vaccinations. And as we reminded you before, whenever the demand outstrips the supply, scammers are more than happy to step in and exploit the situation.
We just read another excellent article that can help you stay safe and avoid the scams and scammers that are becoming ubiquitous on social media and on the web.
We don’t want to see a single one of you get exploited by these clever miscreants who are out to trick you into giving them money for nothing.
We hope you’ll take a few minutes to read this article from Vox.com (Recode), written by Rebecca Heilweil. It just may save YOU a lot of grief and a lot of money.
Online scammers are rushing to exploit people desperate to get the Covid-19 vaccine
From forged vaccine cards to fake appointments, here are the online Covid-19 scams to watch out for.
By Rebecca Heilweil, Vox.com
Many Americans are eager to get the Covid-19 vaccine as quickly as possible. But that inevitably means there are scammers ready to use the internet to take advantage of these vaccine seekers to steal their money and personal information.
Similar to earlier in the pandemic, when fraudsters flooded the internet with ads for sketchy “cures,” bogus Covid-19 tests, and scarce personal protective equipment, online schemers are now selling fake vaccine appointments and knockoff vaccine cards. (These cards document the date that vaccinated people received their doses, the manufacturer of their vaccine, and its batch number; they’re seen as a record of vaccination.)
Vaccine schemes are alarming. In late January, one man in Washington state was arrested after advertising fake Covid-19 vaccines online for as much as $1,000, and even injected people with an unknown substance, according to the Department of Justice, which is investigating these types of fraud cases.
“We’re not surprised scammers are taking advantage of this opportunity because each of the states are rolling out the vaccine a little bit differently,” Sandra Guile of the Better Business Bureau, a nonprofit that focuses on consumer and marketplace trust, told Recode. The organization has warned people that posting images of their vaccine cards on social media — in order to celebrate their inoculation — is only making things worse. Not only are these images making it easier to copy the cards, but social media users are also exposing their personal information and making themselves more vulnerable to identity theft.
People are selling fake vaccine cards online
The target audience for fake vaccine cards is people who think the cards might help them move around and travel more quickly — or avoid getting vaccinated. Tracy Walker, who lives in Hawaii, told Recode that one of her neighbors has been using their personal Facebook page to offer others fake vaccination cards, which were — according to the post, which was viewed by Recode — “[p]rinted on cardstock with laser.”
Right now, these cards are primarily being used as a way for people to record their own vaccination histories, and the card does remind users to keep it handy. It’s possible that this card might be used as proof of inoculation for other purposes sometime in the future.
Walker said she reported the post as “a fraud or scam” to Facebook, only to receive a notice that the post did not violate Facebook’s rules. She said she also reported the post to both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and her police department (who reported it to the state health department). The post is still up as of publication time. Facebook did not respond to a request for comment about this post.
”If that’s something you have to do to be able to move about your life, assume the scammers are going to create a scam around it,” says Kristin Judge, of the Cybercrime Support Network, pointing to both fake Covid-19 vaccination cards and fake Covid-19 test results that have popped up amid the pandemic.
These schemes are showing up in different corners of the internet, including on eBay, in Google ads, and on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. On Twitter, Recode found at least one account purporting to sell vaccines and another selling vaccination cards. Twitter did not provide comment on these accounts.
Chad Anderson, a senior researcher at the cybersecurity threat intelligence firm DomainTools, where he’s been regularly tracking vaccine-related websites throughout the pandemic, told Recode he thinks that the fake card business is only likely to bloom. He’s already seen them being advertised on everything from Shopify-supported shops to the dark web.
“You can just go to Instagram and siphon off people’s batch numbers and just put it on your own fake vaccine card,” he told Recode. “In the US today, we are relying on these cards. They’re extremely easy to fake. Anyone can print one out with the right cardstock.”
Authorities, including the CDC, told Recode they’re aware of the problem, and a spokesperson for the inspector general’s office at the Health and Human Services Department said it has received several reports of scams involving fraudulent vaccine cards. “It is unconscionable that scammers would prey on people’s fear and use the ongoing public health crisis for personal gain,” the representative told Recode.
The World Health Organization added that fake vaccine paperwork can be especially dangerous because it’s unlikely to be reported to national health authorities, and can exacerbate the spread of disease…