Dr Hilary warns about ‘scammers’ exploiting Covid vaccine rollout
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Interpol issued an alert to countries around the world over the rising trend of fake COVID-19 vaccines which are bought online using cryptocurrencies. The police organisation dismantled several criminal organisations in China and South Africa who were targetting scared and vulnerable people who were desperate for a dose. Criminal gangs have already made roughly two million euros and have secured personal details from many which can be used for nefarious purposes.
Speaking on Euronews, Oded Vanunu of cybersecurity firm Check Point discussed how widespread the fraud issue is.
He said: “This is a large scale effort by the cyber criminals since December when we started to investigate it.
“We saw a large increase, around 100%, of the supply level in the darknet and the supply level started with the Chinese and the Russian vaccine.
“And in November, once Pfizer and Moderna were approved by the FDA, we saw a boom of offerings for all vaccination vendors.
“Also now AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson, and this is increasing every week and we are alerting to the authorities that there is a problem.
“The darknet is using the gap between the supply and the demand in the world to perform some kind of scam or to gain profit from this situation.”
Mr Vanunu was then asked for his advice in tackling the problem.
He replied: “We urge people to only use the official channels of the authorities.
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“Cybercriminals are using this period to try to gain profit from cryptocurrency and to supply unknown vaccines.
“We don’t know what is this vaccine we just know that the supply is growing every day and it’s creating pressure that people might think or consider using darknet vaccines.”
Criminals are targeting specific countries which are struggling with their vaccine supply either through emails or setting up marketplaces on the dark web.
Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock explained that “anyone who orders an online vaccine instead of getting it from their national supplier is buying a fake product.”
In early March, Interpol seized 2,400 fake doses in a South African warehouse and arrested three people in connection to the doses.
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A Chinese criminal ring made up of at least 194 members was identified by Interpol with a manufacturing site also raided.
80 people were arrested with more than 3,000 doses found on the premises.
Jürgen Stock warned this was “the tip of the iceberg” and issued warnings to countries to keep a lookout for scam artists.
He added things would only get worse as time went on as more people are targeted from areas with vaccine supply issues.
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