Countries around the world have approved the use of coronavirus vaccines in what the world hopes will lead to the end of the pandemic. But criminals are also waiting, seeing an opportunity to further exploit the pandemic to their advantage.
Since you never know when these criminals will strike, RKN Global advises you to learn about some common crimes linked to the vaccines and ways to protect yourself from becoming a victim.
People desperately seek access to the vaccine that will protect them from the virus and possibly grant a faster return to “normal.” Criminals take advantage of this desperation to steal from the unsuspecting public. Several U.S. federal agencies recently issued a warning urging caution when opening emails and texts from unknown senders.
Criminals use vaccine-related phishing scams to steal people’s information. This includes their social security numbers, credit card number, or bank information. They set up imitation, official-looking websites to collect sensitive information from their victims.
Some of the potential indicators of fraudulent activity you should be aware of include:
- Offers of early access to the vaccine.
- Requests of payments to be on the vaccine waiting list.
- Offers to ship or sell the product locally or internationally for a fee.
- Unsolicited calls, emails, or texts requesting your personal information to verify your eligibility for a clinical trial of the vaccine. The callers may claim to be medical personnel, vaccine centers, or insurance companies.
When you receive any information about the vaccine, there are steps you can take. These include contacting the office of your primary care physician and consulting your government’s health authority website. Additionally you should report any suspicious claims or reports.
Since the pandemic began, criminals have taken advantage of the global panic to market and sell fake cures purported to cure or protect people from the virus. Now, as the vaccine rollout begins, criminals are ready to launch their vaccine scams and disrupt the COVID-19 supply chain.
INTERPOL previously issued an alert to law enforcement bodies around the world about the risk that organized criminal gangs would infiltrate the supply chain with fake vaccines.
Criminals are setting up fake websites with domain names close to the name of the legitimate company. These websites serve as the front for advertising fake vaccines. Some of the scams related to fake vaccines include:
- Home kits for vaccine production
- Priority lines
- Resale of excess vaccines from exclusive sources
- Paid waitlists
- “Scare news” to deter people from getting vaccinated
- Selling appointment spots from someone who already has an appointment
- As noted above, these are in addition to the obvious problem of manufacture and distribution of fake vaccines.
Cybercriminals also target businesses through cyberattacks, with the most recent being against Pfizer/BioNTech. The two partners revealed that a cyberattack to the European Medicines Agency led to the unlawful access of documents related to their COVID-19 vaccine.
While it is still unclear who was behind the attack and whether they had a state backer behind them, the incident shows the steps criminals are willing to take to tap into the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain.
When criminals have access to such data, they gain more information to allow them to disrupt the COVID-19 supply chain and benefit from the vaccines.
As long as COVID-19 is still here, criminals will take advantage of any loopholes. Therefore, they will continue targeting individuals who are desperate to access the vaccine, to collect their personal information or steal money from them.
More sophisticated criminals will tackle businesses and the COVID-19 supply chain to sell fake vaccines or steal legitimate vaccines to create a shortage.