Telegram and Amazon sell fake vaccination cards: thousands of people could buy them
The messaging service Telegram hosts channels selling fake blank COVID-19 vaccination cards, immunization records, and flight permits. These channels, ranging from 1492 to 13 subscribers, are aimed at people "who need maps but don't want to get vaccinated," the publication found. BuzzFeed News.
“Avoid the vaccine, stay safe,” wrote one salesperson on a channel he created with 5 subscribers. "If you need COVID-773 vaccine cards, write to us and we will provide you with them."
“Beware and stay away from the vaccine, it is poisonous,” wrote another on a channel they created with 13 subscribers. “Please convey the message to those who are still blind. So many secrets are hidden from us. The ruling minority is trying to destroy humanity. "
A public service announcement by the FBI in March noted that it was illegal to buy or sell fake vaccination cards under a US code that prohibits the creation, use, or distribution of fake government documents.
“By presenting yourself vaccinated when entering schools, public transportation, workplaces, gyms or other places, you put yourself and others at risk of contracting COVID-19,” the FBI said in a statement.
It is not uncommon for people to use Telegram to sell illegal goods. But the sale of counterfeit vaccination cards poses a unique risk that undermines efforts to contain the pandemic, which to date has killed nearly 600 people in the United States alone. It also hurts the efforts of states and businesses that rely on accurate vaccine documentation to allow access to certain places and services, such as bars in New York or certain international flights.
In order to purchase fake vaccination cards, people are asked to contact the channel owner privately, so it is not known how many purchases were made, but some of these accounts remained active for several months. For example, the COVID-19 Vaccination Cards, which have 8 participants, have been in existence since April. In another group, there are several messages from customers who claim to have purchased fake vaccination cards.
“Thank you very much, Dr. Philip. We received the cards, and my family is so happy now, ”wrote a user named Mr. Jones in a group with 30 subscribers on May 4780. “We were deceived many times and we doubted you. But now we regret it. We just want to thank you again. "
One such Telegram channel, with 8 members, was previously used to spread anti-vaccination misinformation, including memes about Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and vaccine injuries. “Get your cards now and keep your DNA intact,” creator @drjg_covid wrote.
Telegram isn't the only platform that fake vaccination card sellers are based on. They are easy to find on Etsy. Ads for similar maps created by Redbubble and the Bonanza marketplace continue to appear in Google purchases. And Amazon searches for "blank vaccination card" returned results for them along with other vaccine-related products.
Following the publication, a Google spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that Redbubble and Bonanza products were removed from Google Shopping search results.
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“In early 2020, we implemented a COVID-19 sensitivity policy, blocking most proposals related to the virus to protect people from attackers trying to benefit from it,” said a spokesperson. - As an added layer of protection, we also do not show purchase suggestions in the vast majority of search results related to COVID-19. We continue to actively monitor new trends and patterns of abuse and adapt our actions in real time to stop fraud. ”
One list of blank vaccine cards on Amazon claimed that they could be used to "quickly get on" a plane, and that people could "reuse them for medical records." The manufacturer, China-based Snellspy, said they are "great for teachers, students, nurses, office workers, doctors, government officials, police, volunteers and more." The offer disappeared shortly before this story was posted, but card merchant Snellspy was answering questions from curious buyers until June 2. It is unclear exactly how long the offer lasted.
“We have proactive measures in place to prevent getting on prohibited lists and we are constantly monitoring our store,” said an Amazon spokesman. "In this case, we removed the elements and took action against the attackers involved in bypassing our controls."
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