Coronavirus scammers try to trick you with fake vaccine kit
- March 24, 2020
- Posted by: Kerry Tomlinson, Archer News
- Categories: Archer News, Cyber Crime, Cyber Crime, Posts with image
Why worry about the coronavirus when you can just get your free vaccine kit?
Cyber crooks are peddling this “free gift” online in the hopes that you will enter your credit card information.
“Due to the recent outbreak for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) the World Health Organization is giving away vaccine kits. Just pay $4.95 for shipping,” the site CoronavirusMedicalKit (dot) com read.
But your order will get you nothing but more anxiety as you wait for your non-existent kit to arrive.
“In fact, there are currently no legitimate COVID-19 vaccines and the WHO is not distributing any such vaccine,” the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement on March 22.
The DOJ requested a judge’s order to shut down the site, calling the operators “the most despicable of scammers” and saying they “steal limited resources from our communities” and “pose an even greater danger by spreading misinformation and creating confusion.”
Who’s Behind the Scam?
Archer News contacted Namecheap, the site registrar for CoronavirusMedicalKit.
In a chat, a Namecheap representative said they could not tell us who registered the site, as it is confidential.
Then came a surprise question.
“May I know if you would like to register the domain name coronavirusmedicalkit (dot) com?” the rep asked.
“No, thank you,” Archer News answered.
But could someone else register it?
“Regretfully, the domain contains banned phrase, ‘corona’, thus it is not possible to register it,” the rep responded.
Then how did it get registered in the first place? we asked.
“It can be registered at rare cases,” the rep said. “However, if it’s used for illicit activities, legal action can be taken to prevent it.”
Was CoronavirusMedicalKit one of those rare cases?
“I’m sorry that I don’t have any option to check this information,” the rep answered.
And if the site is found fraudulent?
“The particular domain will be canceled in such cases and legal action will be taken on the domain registrant,” the rep said.
At first glance, you might think that the CoronavirusMedicalKit site featured testimonials of happy vaccine kit recipients.
But a quick read reveals the half-hearted shoddiness of the scam.
A “customer” named Magdaliza Negreira writes, “Our review shows that the coronavirus is at least as transmissible as the SARS virus. And that says a great deal about the seriousness of the situation.”
But if you search her picture on Google, you will see a number of other ads using the same image.
And her comment — along with the other “customer” comments — are pulled straight from an abstract on a site called ScienceDaily that summarizes scientific research.
The abstract describes a recent study called “Spread of coronavirus underestimated, review finds” with a date of February 14, 2020.
From the abstract:
“Our review shows that the coronavirus is at least as transmissible as the SARS virus. And that says a great deal about the seriousness of the situation,” says Joacim Rocklöv, professor of sustainable health at Umeå University and one of the authors of the study, published in the scientific Journal of Travel Medicine.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
The fraudsters behind CoronavirusMedicalKit did not go to much effort to create their scam site.
They appear to have simply recycled another scheme in order to profit off fear during the coronavirus crisis.
Their home page, sales pitch, customer testimonials and pictures match that of another site called AppleProductSales (dot) com.
AppleProductSales claims, “We’re giving away a free pair of original AirPods. Just pay for shipping,” and features the same customers, including Magdaliza Negreira, Guido Zambrano Torre, and Mitch and Stacey.
The same customers and pictures also appear on a third site, SmarterProductSales (dot) com, with the pitch, “Due to an inventory clearance event to make room for Airpods 2, Apple is giving away a free pair of original Airpods. Just pay for shipping. This is only available until the timer above hits zero.”
Company contact information is not provided on any of the three sites, although the AirPods sites include Apple’s real 800-number in very small print.
The CoronavirusMedicalKit site is no longer available online, though you can pull it up in its cached vision.
This is not the first shady site with ‘corona’ in its name.
Research shows thousands of ‘corona’ sites have been registered since January, and they are “50% more likely to be malicious than other domains registered at the same period,” according to security company Check Point.
New York’s Attorney General asked a half dozen of the largest site registrars to make it harder for people to register coronavirus-related domain names.
What Can You Do?
First, ignore offers for coronavirus vaccines and cures, the DOJ said in its statement.
“Remember, if a vaccine becomes available, you won’t hear about it for the first time through an email, online ad, or unsolicited sales pitch,” the statement said.
You can also check out any sites or offers on your own.
You can do a Google Image search to see if the pictures of “customers” supposedly offering their testimonials show up elsewhere.
And keep in mind that scammers are going to refurbish their previous scams with a new coronavirus look to see if they can lure you in.
Other tips from the DOJ:
* Check the websites and email addresses offering information, products, or services related to COVID-19. Be aware that scammers often employ addresses that differ only slightly from those belonging to the entities they are impersonating. For example, they might use “cdc.com” or “cdc.org” instead of “cdc.gov.”
* Be wary of unsolicited emails offering information, supplies, or treatment for COVID-19 or requesting your personal information for medical purposes. Legitimate health authorities will not contact the general public this way.
* Do not click on links or open email attachments from unknown or unverified sources. Doing so could download a virus onto your computer or device.
More tips in this DOJ statement about CoronavirusMedicalKit.
You can report suspected coronavirus fraud schemes by phone or email, according to the DOJ:
—Call the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721)
—E-mail the NCDF at email@example.com
Image: Medical kit from CoronavirusMedicalKit site, labeled fraudulent by the US DOJ