Beware of COVID-19 vaccine scams and misinformation

The vaccination campaign is an essential weapon in the global fight against the pandemic, but it is also a subject that risks being exploited by fraudsters and providers of false information.

The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines continues to accelerate, giving hope that we can see the end of the pandemic and return to normal life sooner rather than later. This has not, however, escaped the enterprising crooks who would profit from the vaccine distribution effort by deploying scams and sending fraudulent emails. Let’s take a look at some of the campaigns where cybercriminals try to steal personal information and money from unsuspecting digital citizens or spread baseless claims about vaccines.

Fraudulent commercial offers

A common tactic is to come up with different ways to take advantage of the pandemic and vaccine rollout. These scams typically focus on the COVID-19 vaccines themselves or on the technology used to manufacture or store them.

In the first example below, the cybercriminal poses as an employee of a pharmaceutical company, implying that he is somehow involved in vaccine manufacturing efforts. In order to build some degree of trust, the would-be con man drops the name of Whitman Laboratories, a genuine UK pharmaceutical company that is not involved in such villainous behavior. Also, this scammer opts for an encrypted email provider, instead of the usual favorites of scammers like Gmail or Hotmail.

Beyond those two points, the rest of the email bears all the hallmarks of a scam – it’s poorly detailed, likely to elicit a response, and has grammar errors and bizarre stylistic choices. It’s also worth noting that almost all negotiations for the sale of the COVID-19 vaccine are done directly between manufacturers and governments, so a research assistant who cold calls potential buyers should at the very least raise the issue. doubts.

On the other hand, the second example could be considered to be the opposite of the first. The fraudster behind this email claims to be selling lab-grade freezer units, which some vaccines actually need in order to not start to degrade. In this case, the scammers have done their homework and made the email look as plausible as possible, even going so far as to add a bit of marketing. On the one hand, the manufacturer exists, he has almost all the certificates claimed in the email and, in fact, it manufactures the advertised freezers in various sizes.

In addition, several classic characteristics of e-mail scams are clearly visible: the subject of the message is bizarre and contains spelling errors in the name of the company, the greeting message is general, impersonal and commonly encountered in other familiar areas of the email scam. In addition, the message is riddled with grammar errors and does not include a signature.. In addition, the product offered is focused on a niche market: this type of freezer is rarely found in a doctor’s office or even in most hospitals or pharmacies.

False payments linked to COVID-19

Another tactic frequently used by scammers is to pose as a health authority directly involved in the fight against the pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been one of the most personified authorities in various scam campaigns related to COVID-19, with scammers – posing as WHO officials and employees – trying spreading bogus applications or claiming to provide important information.

The WHO is by no means the only authority whose identity is usurped by these cybercriminals. In the following example, the crooks pose as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Here, scammers actually get certain accurate information – the CDC indeed has an emergency operations center and programs that work in tandem with public health partners. However, if one takes a closer look at the email, the signs of a scam are more than obvious. If you’re one of the CDC’s partners, you probably know its mission and don’t need a refresher, and unless you’ve spent the last few months in a cave, you probably already know that several vaccines have been taken. developed, tested and that some have already been approved.

What’s more, the formatting of the email is messy and confusing, the message is riddled with typos and weird sentence structures, and most importantly, it doesn’t specify why the partner should receive this big payment. Another thing that stands out is the name of the person deemed responsible for the payment. If David W. Archey is a real agent working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), there is no reason why he should be the person responsible for delivering payments from another federal agency.

Conspiracy theories galore

Even though we would like to deny the existence of conspiracy and hoax theories, the internet is overflowing with them today. Si your looking good you will probably find viral lies for just about any topic. Right now, false information regarding COVID-19 vaccines is in the foreground.

These intoxes are also an opportunity to propagate countless emails containing a host of links that claim to reveal the “truth”, which usually consists of taking a short story or a video and embellishing it to suit their needs. story. Another common tactic is to take what’s being said and distort it, misquote it, or frame it so that the end result looks nothing like the original. All of this is done with the aim of producing shock value and getting people to click on the links.

One of those unsolicited emails uses an actual interview with Bill Gates which is deceptively edited to distort his point of view. He also disseminates various falsehoods that rely on baseless claims from various sources in order to “prove” his point of view, including videos that spread mistaken beliefs about vaccines. These videos are available both on YouTube and on a video hosting site that is particularly popular with extremists and fake story providers.

To top it off, the email also references real chemicals and patents that are also freely searchable on the internet. Again, these references are used because they fit perfectly into the narrative and should arouse curiosity to the point of enticing readers to click on the link.

Another email of the same ilk deals with a new patent filed by Microsoft. All of this email is built around the number of the beast, which coincides with the patent publication number. But rest assured; a quick search of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) intellectual property portal reveals that what the tech giant Redmond has patented is just a cryptocurrency system that uses activity data bodily. None of these emails are malicious, but they can be categorized as spreading disinformation online. So, you don’t have to worry about the predictions of the apocalypse just yet.

This is not what the doctor said!

These are just a few examples of vaccine scams you might stumble upon, and you can be sure enterprising scammers will redouble their efforts as the vaccine rollout continues. Also, given the rapid increase in new coronavirus variants, it wouldn’t be surprising to see these cases pop up in scams related to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the easiest ways to protect yourself is to use a reputable security solution that includes a filter anti spam . However, if you receive an unsolicited email from someone you don’t know: always be extra vigilant and check them for telltale signs of a scam, including those described above.

In addition, here are some tips that will help you protect yourself against various scam attempts:

Avoid clicking any links or downloading files that you have received via email from a source you do not know and cannot independently verify If you have received an email that purports to be from a official organization, check their official website and contact them using their official contact details to determine if they really sent it to you Be cautious of commercial offers that sound too good to be true or offers from unverified senders Use a trusted multi-layered security solution that includes protection against spam, phishing scams and other threats.