A variety of COVID-19 vaccine verifications are being sold at increasingly low prices on the dark web, according to a new report from Check Point Research.
Researchers found that prices for EU Digital COVID certificates as well as CDC and NHS Covid vaccine cards had fallen as low as $100. Fake PCR COVID-19 tests are also sold widely, and Check Point Research’s study found groups advertising the fake vaccine verifications in groups with more than 450,000 people.
The report attributes the “majority” of these fake vaccine verifications to groups across Europe.
A previous report from the company in March found that the price for fake vaccine passports was around $250 on the dark web and that advertisements for the scams were reaching new levels.
The researchers now can find fake certificates being sold from groups and people in the US, UK, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Italy, France, Switzerland, Pakistan and Indonesia.
There were many samples of the UK’s NHS certificate as well as the EU Digital COVID Certificate used in multiple countries.
Check Point Research reported an “exponential growth in volumes of followers and subscribers to groups and channels offering and advertising COVID-19 certifications and other means to bypass the need to physically get the vaccine.”
“The advertisements specifically state that the seller ‘provide registered vaccine certificates…for all those who don’t want to take the vaccine,'” the report said.
“The channels we spotted offer the ‘service’ and even detail it’s actual impact. ‘With our cards you can travel and work.’ The sellers often state that the certificates are ‘verified’ and invite the buyers to take simple steps in order to place an order — all you need to do is ‘let us know what country are you from and what you want.'”
The groups offer contact through email, WhatsApp, and Telegram while generally asking for payment through some form of cryptocurrency — mostly Bitcoin, Monero, doge coin and others, according to the report. The groups also accept payment through PayPal.
In their advertisements, the groups explicitly include anti-COVID-19 vaccine statements dissuading people from taking it and painting themselves as protecting the world.
The report includes statements like “You don’t need to take the jab(vaccine) to have the certificate,” and ‘We are here to save the world from this poisonous vaccine,” as well as “Stay away from the vaccine and be save while we continue this fight.”
Check Point Research suggests countries create a secured, internally managed repository that can hold official COVID-19 testing and vaccination data or use things like QR codes to certify vaccine verifications.
The spike in demand for fake vaccine passports and cards comes as hundreds of companies are forcing employees and customers to show evidence of COVID-19 vaccination before coming into offices or businesses. Even the US Army announced this week that COVID-19 vaccines will be required.
The regulations have set off significant backlash in dozens of countries as anti-COVID-19 vaccine movements gain steam. The Check Point Research cites surveys from France, Germany and the US showing that about 30%-40% of respondents do not plan to take the COVID-19 vaccine despite the recent surge due to the more infectious Delta variant of COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccinations drives have stalled in many Western countries in recent weeks. About 1.3 billion people have been vaccinated against COVID-19, representing more than 15% of the world.
Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary General, said in December that law enforcement needed to be ready to deal with the wave of face vaccines and fake vaccine verifications.
“Criminal networks will also be targeting unsuspecting members of the public via fake websites and false cures, which could pose a significant risk to their health, even their lives,” Stock said.
“It is essential that law enforcement is as prepared as possible for what will be an onslaught of all types of criminal activity linked to the COVID-19 vaccine, which is why Interpol has issued this global warning.