DENVER (CBS4) – With COVID-19 vaccines in short supply, some people are looking for ways to cross the line. Experts say scammers are taking advantage of this, selling alleged COVID vaccines for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and sending unsolicited vaccine notices to email inboxes.
CBS4 Investigates found hundreds of ads on a dark website claiming to sell both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. They requested payment of $ 250 to $ 1,000 in bitcoins.
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On another dark website, CBS4 Investigates found a group that claimed to be a research organization in China and offered to send out vaccines in exchange for a Bitcoin donation. The package contained instructions on how to perform the injection.
CBS4 Investigates contacted one of the online sellers of the alleged vaccines. The seller said they could sell 20 vials for $ 500. The seller also claimed that he had a friend at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who was able to put a “large amount” of the vaccines on sale.
CBS4 Investigates did not pay any money for the alleged vaccines.
However, one company did.
Maya Levine of Check Point Software Technologies, a cybersecurity company, said she made an offer on one of the dark web ads and paid the seller in bitcoins.
“And then nothing, nothing arrived, the seller deleted his account after a few days, and we really believe that this is probably the majority of what these ads are selling, which is either nothing or a fake vaccine,” Levine said .
Levine said her company has seen a surge in vaccine advertising on the dark internet since the pandemic began.
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“During the pandemic, we saw more and more ads on the dark internet selling vaccines,” Levine said. “There was only one in May. There were a few in December, and in January there was a 400% increase. “
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser recently warned Coloradans about vaccination fraud. He said his office had heard of scammers sending advertisements for vaccine sales to Coloradans via SMS and email.
“I’m sad to be reminded that there are scammers out there who want to make money when people are desperate. Scammers will take advantage of your hopes and fears and it is a perfect storm that people are scared of catching the virus. Said sage. “I would strongly advise you not to take it because it is likely illegitimate. So don’t do it because it is a waste of time, costs your money, and could harm your health.”
He says real COVID-19 vaccines are free and scammers caught selling a vaccine can face a fine of up to $ 50,000.
“If we can find out where you are, who you are, we will come after you,” said Weiser. “We need people to act responsibly, especially during a public health emergency, and that’s the opposite of that.”
Weiser said his office has not yet fined anyone for vaccine sales fraud. However, he needs the help of the public to track down scammers who are taking advantage of the current environment.
If you’ve come across an advertisement for sale of vaccines, Weiser recommends reporting it to his office by clicking here.
As for those who might be thinking of buying a vaccine to cross the line, Weiser has some advice for them.
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“Don’t do it,” said Weiser. “Trying to buy these vaccines is just buying yourself a headache and a world of injuries. They will take your money, they will take your identity, they will send you something that is illegitimate and can hurt you. “