Scammers are claiming to sell COVID-19 vaccines on the internet, and the government is fighting back.
COVIDReliefSociety.org, a website that claimed to sell coronavirus vaccines and provide same-day distribution worldwide, was confiscated by the US Attorney’s Office in Maryland on Thursday.
The website allegedly used imagery from vaccine manufacturer Moderna when gathering users’ personal information for purposes such as fraud, malware deployment, and phishing attacks after it was registered in December.
The seizure marks the 10th coronavirus-related fraud site taken down by the Maryland US Attorney’s Office in recent months.
“It is reprehensible that fraudsters are trying to prey on unsuspecting residents and their families,” said acting US Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner. “Remember that the COVID vaccine is not for sale, and the federal government is providing the vaccine free of charge to people living in the United States.”
Freevaccinecovax.org, which allegedly imitated a vaccine distributor to gather users’ details, was taken down by authorities earlier in May.
Both sites also have alerts stating that they have been confiscated by law enforcement agencies such as Homeland Security, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations.
In addition to vaccines, the federal government has warned about scammers peddling fraudulent COVID-19 test kits and ineffective or nonexistent personal protective equipment. Fraudsters are said to have targeted veterans, promising to let them bypass vaccine lines in return for money.
“All a bad guy needs to defraud thousands of Americans in search of COVID-19 information is the ability to create a website combined with malicious intent,” said James Mancuso, a Homeland Security special agent in Baltimore. “We must make an example of these perpetrators to deter others from committing these crimes against an unsuspecting and vulnerable Internet user.”