Criminals seeking to exploit unmet demand for the COVID-19 vaccine are selling doses – many presumably fake – on the “dark web,” the portion of the internet dominated by merchants who operate beyond easy reach of law enforcement agencies, the Financial Times reported on Friday (Dec. 18).
The newspaper cited examples of vendors selling vaccines produced in Western countries and in China, ranging in price from $250 to $750.
The paper said that prior to the approval of vaccines by regulators in the United States and the European Union, authorities had warned that fraudsters would use the opportunity to launch scams or sell stolen doses.
Pharmaceuticals supply chain security expert Amy Shortman reportedly told the Financial Times: “There will always be a market for people who wouldn’t necessarily have access to that medicine and wanted to protect themselves and their families. There will be, certainly globally, a lot of money that can be made by criminals.”
The paper also stated that pharmaceutical companies and shippers are on the lookout for thieves seeking to intercept doses.
INTERPOL states on its website: “(W)e are seeing an increase in counterfeit medical products, fraud and cybercrime.”
Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock said in a prepared statement: “As governments are preparing to roll out vaccines, criminal organizations are planning to infiltrate or disrupt supply chains. 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.”
In the United States, the FBI posted guidelines on its website for avoiding COVID-19 crime. The agency warns against any situation in which: “You are asked to pay out of pocket to get the vaccine; you are asked to pay to put your name on a vaccine waiting list or to get early access; (you see) advertisements for vaccines through social media platforms, email, telephone calls, online, or from unsolicited/unknown sources; marketers offer to sell or ship doses of the vaccine for payment.