Vaccines against Covid-19 at 825 euros: the scam of the ‘deep web’ in the middle of the pandemic

Cybercriminals have taken advantage of the supply shortage to flood the internet with bogus offers.

Montage about vaccines against Covid-19 on the 'dark web'.

It’s been just over a month since the first vaccine against Covid-19 was approved. And, around the same time, the first antigen offers appeared on the internet. A scam that has emerged in the midst of the pandemic with prices reaching 825 euros ($ 1,000).

Cybercriminals have taken advantage of the supply shortage to flood the internet with fake offers that offer units of this antigen. Check Point’s technical director for Spain and Portugal, Eusebio Nieva, explained to Invertia how this type of announcement has increased in just one month.

“In December we located two or three and now there are about 700. This means growth greater than 400%”, Explained the spokesman for the cybersecurity company.

In addition, the offers are very varied in terms of vaccine developers as well as in their exorbitant amounts. “We have found Pfizer, Moderna and those developed in China and Russia.” Your prices? “From 660 euros to 825 euros”.

An amount that, like the ads, has been increased. “In December, buying one of these supposed vaccines cost between 120 and 160 euros,” Nieva specified.

Why are they scams?

From Check Point they warn that these announcements they are scams. And it is that, the probability that they are real antigens is null “given the complexity for its storage and transport”. It should be remembered that both Pfizer and Moderna need to be transported at very low temperatures.

To that is added that currently the stock dose is very low. “It is a scarce and guarded good,” Nieva has argued, making it “highly unlikely” that the product these cybercriminals ship is a real vaccine.

One of the Covid vaccine ads found by Check Point on the 'dark web'.

One of the Covid vaccine ads found by Check Point on the ‘dark web’.

Despite these complications, the vendors “insist they have the capacity to sell these vaccines and even offer to meet the customer in person.” And not only that, also offer shipments from Spain and other European countries like Germany.

From Check Point they recognize that what today is impossible to be a real product can change in a few months. “Surely real vaccine ads will start to appear when doses become more available.”

The process

And where are these ads located? In the dark web, a fragment of the internet that is part of the deep web (an area of ​​cyberspace that houses content that does not appear in conventional search engines) and is traditionally used to sell illegal substances.

As explained by Nieva, the offers are hosted in market places. They are platforms that act as intermediaries between seller and buyer. A route that has caught the attention of Check Point experts.

And it is that this platform blocks the buyer’s money until the product arrives. When the client confirms receipt of the same, the market place unlock the money and send it to the seller. “It is impossible to know what is coming to them, but we think that it can be from synthetic drugs, flu shots and even water”.

And they are not only hosted on these platforms. They can also be found outside of them, that is, without intermediaries. In this case, the client risks paying more than 800 euros for a vaccine that never arrives. The cybersecurity company did the test, buying without intermediaries what was supposedly the Chinese vaccine against Covid-19. “Nothing ever came”, Nieva has recognized.

A person using his computer.

A person using his computer.

To avoid falling for this type of scam, the first advice is “think logically”, As indicated by the Check Point spokesperson. “We must think that these cybercriminals take advantage of people’s ignorance and despair, so we have to think a little deeply.”

And it is that, in the current context, “it is highly unlikely that those vaccines against Covid that they offer are real because there are not enough doses, it is a scarce good and, in addition, it is very monitored,” Nieva insisted.

To this must be added the enormous complexity for the storage and transport of these antigens. As already pointed out, even more so those of Pfizer and Moderna, which need to keep up temperatures of -70ºC and -20ºC, respectively, so that they do not lose their effectiveness.