Watch out for fake COVID vaccines for sale online

For some, it would be a stress reliever. Maybe even a lifesaver.

Instead of waiting for months to get your COVID-19 vaccination, buy it online now. Have your doctor give you the injection and you’re good to go, right?

No. Internet ads offering you COVID vaccines are fake, according to a warning from Europol, Europe’s law enforcement agency.

Watch here:

Fake Vaccines

The World Health Organization already found a fake flu vaccine in Mexico in October.  And soon there will be a flood of bogus COVID vaccines advertised online.

“Once a legitimate vaccine enters the market, counterfeited versions of the specific vaccine brand are expected to circulate rapidly,” the warning said.

Fake Ads

Cyber crooks are posting ads online for COVID vaccines. Why wait, get yours now!

One ad announced it’s offering the Pfizer vaccine at a cost of .06882 bitcoin, or about $1,300 as of today’s exchange rate.

“We can deliver in any country,” the seller claims, saying it is based in the U.S.

But it’s not the real thing. Your money would disappear, along with any hopes of COVID-9 protection, according to Europol.

 

 

Fake COVID-19 vaccine ad. Image: Europol

 

Another ad from earlier this year claims that the seller “got access” to a lab producing the vaccine and has 25 vials for sale for $5,000 each, said security company Trustwave.

“There is no discount or s— like that; these vials are priceless and I can sell them more expensive than this but I wanted to put a fair price for it because I do not want to be a thief or an abuser,” the seller wrote.

But the seller is exactly that, Trustwave reported, someone trying to trick you and steal your money.

 

Fake COVID-19 vaccine ad. Image: Trustwave

Dangers

The images of the fake flu vaccine for sale in Mexico in October looked legitimate.

But the vials had a different batch number and expiration dates from the real vaccine. The real pharmaceutical company said it did not produce or distribute these vials. That’s a big red flag.

However, online ads showing real vial numbers don’t prove the product itself is real.

Criminals may refill empty bottles with liquid and pretend they’re vaccines.

Europol is calling the counterfeits a “significant public health threat.” If they don’t work, people might think they are protected from COVID and expose themselves to the virus. If they’re toxic, the counterfeit product could kill people.

 

Fake flu vaccine found in October in Mexico. Image: WHO

Real Vaccines, But Stolen

Another danger lies in stolen vaccines, Europe said.

The vaccines need to stay cold to be safe and effective, Europol said. If malicious hackers divert deliveries to themselves or if criminal gangs steal medicine-bearing trucks, there’s a good chance the “cold chain” will be broken.

Transporting the real vaccines will be the “biggest security challenge for a generation,” according to the Transported Asset Protection Association in November.

“With a black market controlled by supply and demand, Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) will be very aware of the value of doses of the vaccine and are highly likely to be looking for ways to intercept supply chains to steal shipments, especially with such high volumes being distributed within a short timescale,” TAPA said in a press release.

Some transport companies will use intelligence tools to track and avoid cargo crime ‘hotspots’ and are even considering military escorts if needed, the association said.

What Can You Do?

If you want the real COVID vaccine, your best bet is to wait until they are available through a reputable source — and to stay away from false claims about the COVID vaccine.

“Criminals may spread disinformation about vaccines to defraud individuals and companies,” Europol said. “When a COVID-19 vaccine does become available, it will likely not be available for sale online.”

More COVID vaccine scam tips from the Federal Trade Commission:

  • You likely will not need to pay anything out of pocket to get the vaccine during this public health emergency.
  • You can’t pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine.
  • You can’t pay to get early access to the vaccine.
  • No one from a vaccine distribution site or health care payer, like a private insurance company, will call you asking for your Social Security number or your credit card or bank account information to sign you up to get the vaccine.

 

Main image: Hand holds vaccine vial. Image: Simon2579/iStock



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