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COVID-19 Scams: Fake COVID-19 Certificates for Travel

Negative COVID-19 test results are a requirement for domestic and international travel.  They are essential for nations attempting to reestablish the economy while preventing an increase in new coronavirus infections. However, the need for these tests has led to a thriving black market. This enables travelers to easily purchase a fake COVID-19 negative test certificate.

The Rise of Fake COVID-19 Vaccine Documents

As countries vaccinate their citizens, criminals are catching up and cashing in by developing and selling fake vaccination documents for travelers. The black market now provides an editable template of fake vaccine certificates that travelers can fill in.

These documents are yet to be digitized and centralized, making it harder to verify their authenticity. To make the matter worse, criminals use sophisticated technologies and measures to produce high-quality fraudulent documents.

The growing use of fake COVID-19 documents poses a direct threat to travel. Some of the common repercussions include:

Travel Bans

Countries that re-opened their borders for travel amidst the crisis did so with the hope that the restrictions in place would prevent an increase in COVID-19 cases related to travel. However, as more people continue to use fake travel documents, the restrictions do not serve their purpose as travelers with the virus could still travel.

Countries considering reopening their borders might delay the measures. Others might ban travel to prevent the importation of travel-related infections.

These travel bans could hurt immigrant workers and expats from certain regions. For example, the Taiwanese government expressed its distrust towards COVID-19 results from Indonesian immigrant workers. This happened after more than four-fifths of immigrant workers from Indonesia tested positive for COVID-19 in Taiwan even after presenting negative COVID-19 certificates.

Health Risk

Some people claim that they use fake COVID-19 documents due to the cost of an independent test. Others claim they had a need for emergency travel.  Yet others are maliciously trying to travel despite their positive diagnosis of coronavirus infection.

By failing to take a test before travel or faking a negative test when one is positive, these individuals risk infecting other travelers. The result is an increase in travel-related COVID-19 infections. Those traveling with fake vaccination certificates put themselves and others at the risk of infection.

Airline workers are also at risk of developing infections while interacting with positive travelers who are gaming the system with fake COVID-19 documents.

Security Threats

Fake COVID-19 certificates pose a security threat to airlines that have set up additional measures to check these certificates’ authenticity. Some of the airlines are using QR code and barcode scanning to verify these documents.

However, these codes could be cloned.  This means that they might appear to lead to a genuine site, but instead lead to a fraudulent website. As a result, the criminals can intercept personal data.

Criminals exploit people’s need for affordable and easy-to-obtain COVID-19 documents.  This gives them funding to carry out other criminal activities, such as hacking sensitive data.

 

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.

 

 

COVID-19 Scams: How People are Using Fake COVID-19 Certificates to Bypass Travel Guidelines

As the coronavirus travel ban  lifts in many countries, people will be scrambling to travel the world. However, travelers are required to conform to strict travel restrictions, including presenting results of a negative COVID-19 test.

But some travelers are trying to circumvent the rules. They present fake negative coronavirus test certificates to board flights and travel.

Travel requirements

According to a UNWTO travel restrictions report, 70% of global destinations have eased travel restrictions previously imposed in response to the coronavirus’s spread.  Other destinations have remained fully closed to foreign tourists.

Most of these countries which eased their travel restrictions did so to encourage the recovery of the hard-hit tourism sector.

Most countries require that tourists:

  • Present a negative coronavirus test taken within a predetermined time before the flight,
  • Submit to a COVID-19 test upon arrival, or
  • Accept to be quarantined for a period between 7 and 14 days.

Many travelers comply with these restrictions and provide genuine test results or postpone their travel until they are healthy enough to travel.  Unfortunately, others violate these regulations by presenting fake certificates showing negative COVID-19 results.

Why it’s happening

It’s shocking to imagine that the traveler sitting next to you could be carrying a fake COVID-19 certificate and may likely have the virus.  This raises the question of why someone would intentionally violate restrictions meant to keep everyone safe.

Some people turn to the black market for their COVID-19 test certificates to avoid going for a test and risking a positive outcome. Others do so for the ease and convenience of acquiring the certificate. For example, instead of taking a test within 72 hours before their flights, some travelers may buy fake certificates a few hours before their flight.

For example, a traveler might forge a friend’s negative coronavirus test certificate, editing out his friend’s name and adjusting the dates to meet the travel requirements.

Some also cite difficulties obtaining a test, especially for emergency travel.  In turn, they purchase fake certificates from the black market or create them themselves. Others may find that their legitimate COVID-19 test certificate is insufficient for some airlines that require passengers to take a test at a private clinic.

People caught using or selling fake certificates could face criminal consequences, including heavy fines and incarceration.

The use of these fake certificates poses a risk to public health.  This is because people bearing these certificates are more likely to have COVID-19.  They pose a much higher risk of exposing others to the virus.

Countries with high instances of using fake certificates also risk a ban on their citizens and residents from traveling to certain destinations.

Staying safe

RKN Global emphasizes that countries need to adopt cutting-edge measures to manage and track travelers and their COVID-19 certificates.  This will give them stronger tools to detect fake certificates and enforce consequences, creating a powerful deterrent effect.

 

 

COVID-19 Scams: COVID-19 Vaccines and Organized Crime

The world is eagerly awaiting the speedy distribution of vaccines against the coronavirus. However, the specter arises of their weaponization and misuse. Organized criminal networks have been preparing themselves to infiltrate the supply chain as vaccine delivery gets closer.

High demand combined with a limited supply

Coronavirus has caused more than 90 million global infections and more than 1.9 million deaths in a year. Thereby, it has also crippled economies worldwide. This global effect of the virus only makes the demand for a vaccine higher.

INTERPOL has warned of the high risk of abuse by organized crime groups.  These groups are likely infiltrate supply chains to sell fraudulent vaccines.  Months ago, it warned law enforcement agencies to be prepared for these organized crime groups.

Organized crime may infiltrate the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain through different paths, including the distribution of fake vaccines and sham cures. Criminal groups create fake websites disguised as authorized distributors. These websites promise to sell vaccines or alternative treatments to people who are desperate and vulnerable to deception. The less tech-savvy are at a higher risk of falling victim to these scams, as they are less likely to identify suspicious websites.

According to INTERPOL, the coronavirus has “already triggered unprecedented opportunistic and predatory criminal behavior.”

The early months of the pandemic saw individuals and groups attempting to illegally profit from the coronavirus. Methods included selling PPIs at inflated prices and taking advantage of relief schemes set up by governments to ease the pandemic’s effect on their citizens.

As the pandemic has progressed, the risks have grown to include an array of COVID-19 scams and fake medical products.  Vaccines are the next opportunity.

 

Identifying COVID-19 vaccine crimes is critical to governments

Law enforcement has played a critical role in supporting control measures set by governments to control the disease and fight COVID-related criminal activity. Likewise, it is critical in facilitating the smooth roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines.

INTERPOL cogently noted that identifying these crimes will become critical to governments’ ability to distribute the legitimate vaccines to patients. Therefore, the organization encouraged law enforcement to collaborate with health regulatory bodies to ensure the safety of individuals and communities.

It also advised members of the public to remain vigilant, especially when ordering medication or related equipment online. Meanwhile,  INTERPOL’s Cybercrime Unit disclosed that it identified 3,000 websites suspected of having links to pharmacies of selling illicit medication and medical devices. (A majority of these devices contained cyber threats like malware).

A growing concern

The health industry has seen a dramatic increase in cyberattacks since the pandemic first spread throughout the world. Cybercriminals have attempted to infiltrate systems of leading health and pharmaceutical organizations, and now that COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out, organized criminal groups are hard at work to take advantage of the opportunities they present.

RKN Global stresses that although law enforcement has a key role in preventing the distribution of fraudulent medical devices and vaccinations, individuals must exercise vigilance to avoid becoming victims of COVID-19 vaccine scams.

 

Protecting Yourself from Holiday Identity Theft

Identity theft can happen to anyone at any time. However, people are more susceptible to identity theft during the holiday season. This is mostly because people are not only shopping more during this season, but also doing so in a distracted manner.  In this article, we will explore simple tips you can use to protect yourself from holiday identity theft.

Let’s dig in:

Use a secure network

Avoid using public Wi-Fi when shopping online or logging into your financial accounts. A network that is not secure puts your personal information, such as your credit card number, at risk. Consider using a VPN service when connecting to the internet using pubic Wi-Fi. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypts your internet traffic and directs it through a secure and private network.

Only carry what you need

Are you fond of carrying all your credit cards and your social security card in one wallet? If you do, it’s time to start carrying only the essentials. While having everything with you might seem convenient, it’s the perfect set up for identity theft. Keep the documents you carry with you to a minimum.

Choose cash or credit over debit

Credit card companies monitor suspicious charges. This makes them more secure to use than debit cards, since debit cards only withdraw money from your account without offering the same level of protection.

Use trustworthy online shopping sites

There are signs that can help you gauge the security of a website. For instance, HTTPS in the web address and a locked padlock on the far left side of the website URL show that a site is secure.

To avoid phishing scams, you should also be careful about the promotional emails you receive in your inbox. Double check to ensure that the promotional links in such emails do not lead to altered links.  These altered links might at first sight appear to be legitimate websites.

Be vigilant when opening new retail credit accounts

Sometimes retail stores will offer you gifts and other incentives if you open a credit card account with them. However, you should be extra careful when giving out your information.

Ensure that no one is looking over your shoulder when writing down your details, and that there are no devices attached to the card reader that could skim your cards. You should also ask the sales assistant how they intend to discard your personal information once they have entered it into their system.

Keep your software updated

Software updates can seem like a drag, but they are meant to protect you from new security threats. If you see a message asking you to upgrade your software or operating system, do it right away. This way, you will always have the most up to date software, and will always be protected.

Final word

The holiday season means that people are on the search for the perfect gifts for their loved ones. Unfortunately, fraudsters are also on a hunting spree: for your information.  Although it’s not possible to completely protect yourself from identity theft, the steps we have discussed today can go a long way towards keeping your information safe.