COVID-19 Fraud Scheme Uncovered in the EU as ‘Delta’ Variant Fuels New Activity

By Bill Toulas / August 11, 2021

Europol has announced the arrest of 23 suspects in Romania, the Netherlands, and Ireland, result of a coordinated operation to dismantle a business email compromise fraud that has defrauded companies in twenty countries of approximately €1 million. The scammers used COVID-19 lures to convince companies that they were buying products relevant to the pandemic and set up websites and email addresses that impersonated legitimate companies in the fields of medicinal and protective equipment.

Any orders placed in these fraudulent sites were never processed, and obviously, no goods were ever delivered to the buyers. The crooks used various bank accounts in Romanian banks to move the received money around in a minimal effort for obfuscation and eventually withdrew the funds at ATMs. Europol was following the actors since 2017, noticing several theme changes depending on what was going on, but since the COVID-19 outbreak, the scammers have stuck with it.

In the meantime, CheckPoint reports that the spread of the ‘Delta’ variant is fueling new waves of activity in dark web markets, with crooks offering fake vaccination certificates for various European countries for $100 to $120. In addition to these, they sell fake PCR COVID-19 tests, CDC, and bogus NHS vaccine cards. These criminals cater to the needs of the anti-vaxxers who still want to roam freely even if they aren’t immunized against the virus, and it appears that the market for this is pretty big.

Source: CheckPoint
Source: CheckPoint

No matter where you stand on the matter, trusting anyone on the dark web is foolish. Most of these listings are fraudulent anyway, and you will pay the requested amount to get nothing in return. If you get a phony vaccination certificate, you will be automatically an accomplice to forgery, which is a grave crime in most countries. In the end, the risks of holding a fake vaccination card are multi-level and hold severe implications.

COVID-19 has been milked by scammers numerous times since the pandemic started, from fake financial relief requests to tricky stimulus smishing campaigns and from mask sales to vaccine listings. We’ve seen everything these last 18 months, and with the emergence of new variants, the buyers' interest re-sparks. Notably, back in March 2021, when the vaccination programs were in earlier phases, dark web crooks sold vaccination certificates for $250, so the prices have gone down a bit now.

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