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COVID-19 Scams: COVID-19 Vaccine Crimes You Should Know

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.

Phishing Scams

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.

Fake Vaccines

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.

Cyber Attacks

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.

Final Word

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.


COVID-19 Scams: Why Fake COVID-19 Vaccines are on the Rise


Criminals often take advantage of misfortunes to profit themselves, and the coronavirus pandemic has not been any different. Since the global spread of the virus, criminals have taken advantage of individuals, businesses, and governments. Now, with the release of COVID-19 vaccines, they are gearing to fill the market with fakes. Here are the top reasons fake COVID-19 vaccines are on the rise.

A Global Demand

As the virus cripples significant parts of the economy worldwide, there is a global demand to fight it off and restore the economy. This demand for a cure has given criminals a ripe ground to advertise and sell formulas purported to cure or protect from COVID-19.

This global demand is made worse by the desperation across communities to resume a social life similar to that of the pre-COVID-19 world. This has made it easier for criminals to target unsuspecting people into purchasing “magical” cures.

With the arrival of some vaccines that have proven as much as 95% effective against the virus, people around the world are desperate to get vaccines.  This increases the demand for the product.

Limited Supply

While the demand for COVID-19 vaccines is high, the current supply does not meet the global demand. Therefore, millions of people are waiting for the vaccine, each trying to get it as fast as possible.

In the real sense, the rollout for these vaccines will take several months to implement. This could leave many citizens impatient and more vulnerable to people offerings of alternative purported solutions.

For example, criminals have set up fake websites even before some of these vaccines are released into the market. These websites contain real names of approved drugs. However, some ask for money, the patient’s health, or financial information in exchange for the vaccine. When criminals get this information, they can use it for financial or medical identity theft.

Some fraudsters even take the fake vaccines to the patients. For example, a fraudster in England who claimed  to be from the National Health Service gave a 92-year-old woman a fake vaccine and asked for payment.

The limited supply has also led governments to prioritize the most vulnerable in their distribution of the vaccine. This means that the target has been the elderly, front-line healthcare workers, and individuals predisposed to contracting and developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.

This gap between the demand and supply has fueled the growth of COVID-19 vaccine scams.

Delays in Distribution

The EU and North America are currently facing problems with distribution. This affects the rollout and administration of the vaccine. Some of these delays are due to logistical problems while some are due to delayed shipments from the manufacturers.

Such delays present criminals with an opportunity to sell off “exclusive” supplies of “remaining” vaccines to the unsuspecting public.

Final Word

Criminals will remain opportunistic and will continue to look for ways to infiltrate the supply of COVID-19 vaccines, whether through fake websites, fake information, phishing scams, and even in-person fraud. You can protect yourself by finding information from verified sources only.

Use the official websites of your country’s healthcare body, ensuring that the domain name is spelled correctly. At RKN Global, we also emphasize the importance of notifying local law enforcement if you notice suspicious activity or are the victim of a COVID-19 vaccine scam.