A COVID-19 shot for $150? Online scams surge as slow vaccine


As many people await their address get a COVID-19 vaccine that would be months away, scammers online, in emails and on messaging apps are luring victims with claims they can deliver shots within days for as little as $150.

COVID-19 vaccine scams are on the increase , consistent with European and U.S. government officials who are warning the general public of fraudsters out for money and private data.

In dark web forums and on messaging app Telegram found seven different offers for alleged COVID-19 vaccines.

Scams include emails promising entry to supposedly secret lists for early vaccine access and robocallers impersonating government agencies. Message boards on the so-called dark web have added COVID-19 vaccines to more traditional illicit goods purchasable .

The U.S. FBI and Interpol, among others, have warned of emerging pandemic-related fraud schemes, saying false cures and vaccines advertised on fake websites could pose cyber threats and a big risk to peoples’ health, or even lives.

Website domains containing the word vaccine together with COVID-19 or coronavirus quite doubled since October to roughly 2,500 in November, when the primary legitimate vaccines were nearing regulatory approval, consistent with cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, which is tracking COVID-19 fraud online.

“So far tons of those domains just appear to be opportunistic registrations, but some are getting to be used for phishing attempts to possess people click on (malicious) links,” said Lindsay Kaye, director of operational outcomes at Recorded Future.

Kaye said her team, which also scours the dark web, thus far has not encounter any legitimate vaccine diverted from healthcare facilities or national stockpiles.

The scams are preying on concerns about the far slower-than-promised rollout of vaccines to guard against the virus that has claimed quite 1.8 million lives worldwide thus far . Most people will likely need to wait well into the spring, or maybe summer, to urge their shot.

In the us , only about 4.5 million people had received their first shot as of Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. That is a fraction of the 20 million who were alleged to are vaccinated by the top of 2020, consistent with earlier government forecasts.


On dark web forum Agartha, fake COVID-19 vaccines were offered next to cocaine, opioid medication, “super top quality fake money,” hand guns and gift cards. Posts showed stock photos of vaccines and offered vials for $500 and $1,000, or the equivalent in Bitcoin.

On another dark internet site , a seller claiming to be from the “Wuhan Institute of Science” offered COVID-19 vaccines in exchange for a donation, and asked buyers to supply their medical history.

On Telegram, several channels claimed to supply COVID-19 vaccines, amid stock images. One user offered supposed Moderna Inc vaccines for $180, and claimed the vaccine from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE might be had for $150 and AstraZeneca’s for $110 per vial.

Asked how the vaccines would be shipped, the account creator said they were transported in “regulated temperature packs” and ice packs within a couple of days, or overnight for a further charge.

Actual COVID-19 vaccines, particularly the Pfizer/BioNTech offering, must be temperature controlled to stay effective, with drugmakers equipping shipments with temperature trackers to make sure the cold chain. Vaccine shipments and distribution also are tightly controlled by officials and can be administered at no cost.

The us has thus far authorized two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use – those from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. The European Union so far has authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and is predicted to clear the Moderna vaccine in the week .

The UK has already authorized those two and just added the vaccine developed by Oxford University with AstraZeneca.

Asked about vaccine scams, Pfizer said it had taken meticulous steps to scale back the danger of counterfeiting and tracked trends very carefully.

“Patients should never attempt to secure a vaccine online – no legitimate vaccine is sold online – and only get vaccinated at certified vaccination centers or by certified healthcare providers,” a Pfizer spokesman said in a statement.

Moderna referred an invitation for comment to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which didn’t respond. AstraZeneca didn’t answer an invitation for comment.

The HHS, FBI and U.S. Department of Justice have urged the general public to report any COVID-19 vaccine scams, including people posing for out-of-pocket payments for the vaccine and online vaccine advertisements


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