Rise in fake COVID vaccination cards – CBS San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) – With the approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, more employers, businesses and municipalities may think it is time to demand COVID vaccinations. The vaccine and the vaccination card that checks the vaccines are both free. But some unvaccinated people turn to fake cards to get them through the front door, but at potentially terrible cost.
Cyber security experts told KPIX 5 that there is a burgeoning black market that is now accessible to anyone who owns a smartphone.
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“We’ve seen the numbers really go up,” said Maya Levine. Levine is a security expert at a global cybersecurity company called Check Point.
His business was used to seeing counterfeit activity taking place exclusively for sale on the dark web. But that is changing, especially during this pandemic.
“We have seen a shift towards much more mainstream apps like Telegram,” Levine said.
Telegram is a free cloud-based messaging app. With it, messages are strongly encrypted and can self-destruct.
“People advertise these fake vaccination cards in large group chats on Telegram and make them widely available to a large number of people,” the cybersecurity expert noted.
Check Point analysts have seen a 257% increase in the number of sellers using Telegram to advertise bogus vaccine cards to those “who don’t want to get the shot.” Over 2,500 groups are currently active. Fake cards are quick to find and cheap.
KPIX 5 easily located multiple entry points, including TikTok and Instagram. All you need is some cryptocurrency to buy them.
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“The average cost has now dropped to around $ 100 or $ 120 per card,” Levine explained,
But getting a fake card can cost you more than you think, according to cybersecurity experts. If you are sending payments in Bitcoin it is nowhere to be found and you could get scammed. But if you are actually getting a real physical card, beware of the buyer.
“You probably gave real sensitive information to get it. So, is it really worth it? Levine asked.
Public health experts KPIX spoke to were appalled. The highest cost may be for those who are actually vaccinated and who may have weakened immune systems, making them very susceptible to infections.
“The use of these fake cards is a really sad commentary on people who would do that,” noted Dr John Swartzberg of UC Berkeley.
With evidence suggesting that the potency of COVID-19 vaccines may decline, those with fake cards may put anyone who is vaccinated at increased risk.
“This increases their risk of coming into contact with an infectious person. Because the most infectious people, for longer periods, are unvaccinated people, ”explained UCSF epidemiologist Dr George Rutherford.
Check Point told KPIX 5 that the bad actors behind this cyber push for fake cards are fairly global, but certainly include China and Russia.
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FBI warns that making fake COVID-19 vaccination cards is a federal crime. Violators face up to 5 years in prison or a fine of $ 5,000.