Scammers Are Setting Up Fake Covid Vaccine Websites – The Wall Street Journal


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Scammers are taking advantage of widespread anxiety about Covid-19, and are enticing people to give up their personal data and money with the promise of a vaccine. Here’s what you should know about the sham sites purporting to sell doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.

1. The scammers create websites that appear to sell doses of a vaccine in exchange for personal information and money.

A recent sham website offered doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for $30 each and claimed “You may be able to buy a Covid-19 vaccine ahead of time.” After a U.S. Department of Homeland Security investigation of the site, three Baltimore-area men were arrested on Feb. 11, and charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. But this site was not the only scam. Fake sites posing as

Pfizer Inc.


BioNTech SE

—which offer another vaccine approved for emergency use in the U.S.—have also popped up. Homeland Security investigators had seized roughly $33 million in illicit proceeds and analyzed almost 80,000 Covid-19 domain names as of last week, according to a spokeswoman for the agency. “Patients should never try to secure a vaccine online—no legitimate vaccine is sold online,” said Pamela Eisele, communications director for Pfizer.

2. Many of the impostor websites offer payment methods such as Zelle and Square.

Many Covid-19 scam attempts involve simple tools and everyday payment methods, says Pat Wilbur, chief technology officer at Hologram Inc., a Chicago-based cellular platform company. Although some pandemic scams might seem obvious to some, they often work because people are desperate to get back to normal, said Wilbur, who said he reports scammers to authorities as a hobby. Early Warning Services LLC, which operates Zelle, said the company monitors its network for transactions that violate its terms of service. Consumers are advised to treat Zelle payments like cash and be aware of “too good to be true” offers, the company said. A representative for Square said, “We continue to invest in and bolster fraud-fighting resources by both increasing staffing and adopting new technology.”

3. Scammers take advantage of online search patterns.

As life moves increasingly online, experts say consumers are more vulnerable to these kinds of tricks. Scammers use search algorithms and paid advertisements to take advantage of their trust, said Douglas Schmidt, co-director of the Data Science Institute at Vanderbilt University. Older populations who weren’t raised on the internet are especially vulnerable, he said. “You expect that Google will only give you stuff that’s valid,” he said.

4. Scammers have also mimicked companies that manufacture drugs to treat Covid-19.

The Maryland U.S. attorney’s office shut down two similar though unrelated schemes in December that mimicked drug companies. The sites aimed to collect personal information for phishing attacks. One used the web address, and claimed to be linked to Regeneron Pharmaceutics Inc., the biotechnology company that provided the treatment used on former President Trump late last year when he had Covid-19. Another, at, had the look of the Cambridge, Mass.-based biotech’s actual website, A representative for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. said the company is aware of the impostor website and appreciates the work done by investigators on the matter. Moderna didn’t respond to requests for comment. 

Read the original article by Brooke Henderson here.

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