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  • The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, working with the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Baltimore, recently seized the fake COVID-19 vaccine website “Freevaccinecovax.org.”
  • The website collected personal information from people who visited it by asking them to download a PDF file to their device to apply for more information.
  • Interacting on a malicious website offering COVID-19 vaccines could lead to an array of identity crimes, including a phishing attack, malware attack and different forms of social engineering.
  • COVID-19 vaccines are not being sold online. Any link that claims to take someone to a website to purchase one is fake. To find a vaccine appointment online, people should go through their local department of health, pharmacy or health care provider.
  • For more information on fake COVID-19 vaccine websites, or if you believe you are a victim of a COVID-19 vaccine scam, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat on the website www.idtheftcenter.org.

Federal officials shut down a fake COVID-19 vaccine website after discovering the website was stealing people’s personal information for cybercriminal activity. According to Threatpost, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, working with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Baltimore, seized “Freevaccinecovax.org,” “which purported to be the website of a biotechnology company developing a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus,” according to a news release on the office’s website.

Since the U.S. began administering the COVID-19 vaccines, cybercriminals have tried to take advantage of consumer’s desire for vaccinations. According to NBC 4 Washington, BrandShield, a global cybersecurity firm protecting some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies from cyberthreats, found a 4,200 percent increase in potentially fraudulent COVID-19 vaccine websites from January 2020 through the end of February 2021. The news of the latest malicious website highlights the importance of being cautious with COVID-19 vaccine websites and how to use them.

Who are the Targets?

People looking to receive the COVID-19 vaccine

What is the Scam?

Threat actors created “Freevaccinecovax.org” to collect personal information from people who visited the website to commit identity crimes like fraud, phishing attacks or to deploy malware. Threatpost says the fake COVID-19 vaccine website used trademarked logos for Pfizer, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on its homepage to trick people into believing it was a legitimate site. The malicious website had a drop-down menu that asked users to apply for information by downloading a PDF file to their device.

What They Want

Identity criminals are after people’s personal information to commit phishing attacks, malware attacks, social engineering and other forms of identity-related fraud.

How to Avoid Being Scammed

To avoid a fake COVID-19 website:

  • Ignore websites trying to sell a vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines are not being sold online. Any link that claims to take you to a website to purchase one is fake.
  • Do not click on any posts or ads claiming to sell cures. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • If you are checking for a vaccine appointment online, make sure you do it through your local department of health, pharmacy or health care provider. Never follow a link randomly sent to you.

To learn more about COVID-19 vaccine scams, malicious websites, or if you believe you were on a fake COVID-19 vaccine website, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free by calling 888.400.5530. You can also visit the company website to live-chat with an expert advisor. Go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.  

  • As more people get the coronavirus vaccine, the level of COVID vaccine fraud could rise, particularly around vaccine passport and scheduling apps and vaccination cards.
  • Right now, there are no programs in the U.S. that use or require a vaccine passport app. If anyone receives a message about one, it is a scam trying to steal people’s credentials or get them to pay for a fake app or service.
  • There are apps to schedule a vaccine. However, an app that asks for money or personal health information (PHI) should raise a red flag.
  • Many people are posting pictures online of their vaccination cards once they’ve gotten the COVID shot. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) does not recommend people post these photos unless they blur out their personal information to reduce identity risks.
  • If anyone wants to learn more about COVID vaccine fraud concerns or believes they have been the victim of a COVID vaccine scam, they can contact the ITRC toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Just go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

The number of Americans receiving the COVID vaccine is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), well over 100 million vaccines have been administered, and more than 12 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated. States across the U.S. are moving beyond limited groups to vaccinate the general public, leading to concerns over COVID vaccine fraud. There are several different ways identity criminals could attack.

Vaccine Passport & Scheduling Apps

There are no current programs in the U.S. that use or require a vaccine passport. While the World Health Organization (WHO) says the race is on to develop a vaccine passport, any phone calls or messages to download a COVID vaccine passport app is a scam. However, there are apps for vaccine scheduling, like the CDC’s Vaccine Schedules app and other healthcare apps. With that said, any app that asks for money or personal health information (PHI) could be suspect. Fake apps often attempt to either steal someone’s credentials, get them to pay for the fraudulent app, or use a fraudulent vaccine scheduling service.

Vaccination Cards

Another COVID vaccine fraud concern involves COVID vaccine cards. By now, most people have probably seen at least one of their friends, family members or co-workers post a picture online of their COVID vaccination card. COVID vaccine cards have personal information (name, birth date and vaccination location) on them that people need to safeguard. Posting vaccine cards could help scammers create and sell phony vaccination cards or even hack accounts. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) recommends people remove or block sensitive information before they post their cards online.

According to a Better Business Bureau (BBB) alert, there have been no reports of fake vaccination cards sold in the U.S. However, in Great Britain, scammers have already been caught selling phony vaccination cards on eBay and TikTok.

How to Avoid a COVID Vaccine Scam

COVID vaccine scams based around fake websites and vaccines have been around since nearly the beginning of the global pandemic. There is no reason to believe the trend will decline as more COVID vaccines are administered. Consumers should be aware of the COVID vaccine fraud attempts and take the following steps to protect themselves:

  • Do not download any apps that claim to be a vaccine passport.
  • Only schedule vaccination appointments through official websites, a local health authority, or your medical provider. Services requiring payment to schedule an appointment are a sign of fraud.
  • Do not post pictures of your vaccination card online unless the personal information is blocked or removed.
  • Only get vaccinated from a licensed medical provider.
  • Do not respond to any calls, emails or text messages about COVID vaccines that ask for your personal information. Also, don’t click on any links, attachments or files unless you initiated the contact. If in doubt, reach out to the entity directly to verify the validity of a message.

Contact the ITRC

For more information on COVID vaccine fraud concerns, or if someone believes they are the victim of a COVID vaccine scam, contact the ITRC toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Visit our website for the latest news on COVID scams and other identity-related issues. All people have to do is go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns consumers that while a vaccine is closer to distribution, so are COVID-19 vaccine scams. 
  • The FDA fears misleading products could cause Americans to delay or stop appropriate medical treatment, leading to life-threatening harm. 
  • There is also a fear that the COVID-19 vaccine scams could lead to many people having their personally identifiable information (PII) and personal health information (PHI) stolen. 
  • Consumers should only get vaccines from approved medical providers, not respond to any calls that ask for PHI or PII, and not click on any links claiming to sell cures. 
  • For more information, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free by live-chat on the company website or by calling 888.400.5530.  

coronavirus vaccine is closer to reality, with companies like Pfizer and Moderna seeking permission to distribute their vaccines to Americans. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and investigators warn that scammers are also waiting, ready to take advantage of those desperate for the vaccine by tricking them with a COVID-19 vaccine scam.  

The FDA fears deceptive and misleading products might cause Americans to delay or stop appropriate medical treatment, leading to serious and life-threatening harm. There is also a fear that bogus claims about vaccines and treatments could lead to people having their personally identifiable information (PII) and personal health information (PHI) stolen by cybercriminals.  

Who is the Target 

Vulnerable & high-risk populations; individuals waiting for the vaccine 

What is the Scam 

COVID-19 vaccine scams could come in many different forms. Investigators expect scammers to create fake websites, try to sell fake vaccines and treatments, and try to get people’s PII and PHI along the way. Identity thieves used similar tactics while trying to take advantage of a shortage of COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, gloves and gowns near the beginning of the pandemic.

How You Can Avoid Being Scammed 

  • Homeland Security investigators say you should only get vaccinated from an approved medical provider. 
  • Do not respond to any calls about COVID-19 vaccines that ask for your personal information like Social Security Number and “promise to reserve you a vaccine.”
  • Do not click on any posts or ads claiming to sell cures. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. 
  • Never click on any links, open any attachments, or download any files in an email claiming to offer a COVID-19 vaccine.  

To learn more about COVID-19 vaccine scams, or if you believe you are a victim of a vaccine scam, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free by calling 888.400.5530. You can also visit the company website to live-chat with an expert advisor. Go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.