The darknet – a part of the internet that isn’t visible to search engines and requires a special browser to access it – has seen a 300% spike in ads for fake vaccines in the last three months under the guise of brands such as Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Sputnik, and SinoPharm, according to Check Point Research (CPR), an IT security firm.
“It’s clear to us that the target audience for darknet vaccine vendors are actually dealers, not necessarily the public at large,” Ekram Ahmed, spokesperson at Check Point, told Fox News.
The vendors seem to be interested in setting up long-term relationships, where they deliver vaccines in large quantities over a long time period. Prices for the vaccines range between $500 and $600.
“The vendors want foot soldiers on the ground, in multiple geographies, to distribute the full-spectrum of coronavirus services: vaccines, vaccination certifications and negative COVID tests,” Ahmed said.
And the boom in vaccine-related business on the darknet is recent, according to CPR.
Check Point attempted to buy a vaccine. The vendor first insisted on using an end-to-end encrypted service. Then Check Point began a dialogue with vendor, who assured Check Point that they would get the vaccine and it would be temperature regulated during shipping.
Then the vendor asked for payment via Bitcoin. “We paid them. They gave us a FedEx tracking number. The transaction was made last week, and we have yet to get the vaccine we ordered,” according to Ahmed.
And activity on the darknet has expanded to include fake vaccination cards from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for $200 per card, CPR said.
Other Darknet activity includes fake negative COVID-19 tests sold as “buy two get the third for free” deals and a do-it-yourself version of a negative COVID-19 test that can be generated in less than 30 minutes for $25.
One hacking forum indicated that “We do negative COVID tests for travelers abroad and for getting a job. Everything is done within 24 hours.”
Earlier this year the Federal Trade Commission issued an advisory on COVID vaccine scams.
“Don’t pay to sign up for the vaccine. Anyone who asks for a payment to put you on a list, make an appointment for you, or reserve a spot in line is a scammer,” the FTC said.
And always ignore sales ads for the COVID-19 vaccine because that’s simply not how you get the vaccine, the FTC said. The vaccine is only available at federal- and state-approved locations.