Feds seize websites pretending to sell COVID vaccines

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Scammers are falsely claiming to sell COVID-19 vaccines online — and the feds are fighting back. 

The US Attorney’s Office in Maryland seized a website, COVIDReliefSociety.org, that claimed to sell coronavirus vaccines and offer same-day delivery around the world, the office said Thursday.  

After it was registered in December, the website allegedly used imagery from vaccine maker Moderna while collecting users’ personal information for purposes including fraud, deployment of malware and phishing attacks.

The seizure is the 10th coronavirus-related fraud site the Maryland US Attorney’s Office has taken down in recent months, the office said. 

“It is reprehensible that fraudsters are trying to prey on unsuspecting residents and their families,” said acting US Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner in an announcement of the seizure. “Remember that the COVID vaccine is not for sale, and the federal government is providing the vaccine free of charge to people living in the United States.” 

Earlier in May, authorities took down freevaccinecovax.org, which also allegedly imitated a vaccine distributor in order to collect users’ information. 

Both sites now display announcements saying they have been seized by law enforcement groups including Homeland Security, the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations.

In addition to vaccines, feds have warned about scammers shilling fake COVID-19 test kits and ineffective or nonexistent personal protective equipment. Fraudsters have also reportedly targeted veterans, offering to let them skip vaccine waitlists in exchange for cash. 

“All a bad guy needs to defraud thousands of Americans in search of COVID-19 information is the ability to create a website combined with malicious intent,” said James Mancuso, a Homeland Security special agent in Baltimore. “We must make an example of these perpetrators in order to deter others from committing these crimes against an unsuspecting and vulnerable Internet user.”

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