Fake CDC COVID vaccine cards are now the new, hot commodity on the dark web.
Airlines around the world are encountering fake COVID-19 certificates as passengers attempt to avoid both the time and expense of a COVID test prior to their travel.
The airline industry anticipates more fraud if countries go forward with their plans to require vaccination certificates.
The documents are often the Covid-19 test results required by many countries on arrival. The International Air Transport Association industry body says it has tracked fake certificates in multiple countries, from France to Brazil, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Border control authorities and police forces have also reported arrests of people selling documents in the U.K., Spain, Indonesia and Zimbabwe, among others.
The problem is hitting international flights more than domestic ones, which typically don’t require certification at the moment. Airlines that are more dependent on cross-border travel, particularly those operating in Europe, are growing increasingly alarmed as they look to the summer, when they still hope demand will start to return.
The proliferation of fake health certificates is exposing a logistical blind spot, as airlines rush to navigate post-pandemic travel standards and retool their systems to ease compliance—and spur demand. Airlines say their staff aren’t equipped to handle and police all the new health certifications needed and worry the problem will be exacerbated when some countries also start to ask for vaccination certificates.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and those in 44 other states are investigating the online sale of fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards.
While many Americans are being vaccinated, many people are not. So as venues and even transportation providers start requiring proof of vaccination, these official – albeit paper and hand-written – CDC cards are among the hottest items on the knock-off market today.
“We’ve seen a 300% increase from what was available in December,” said Mark Ostrowski, the head of engineering at cybersecurity firm Checkpoint Software.
While some phony vaccine certificates are still priced at hundreds of dollars on the dark web, some less authentic-looking copies are available for free and the I-Team found more conventional platforms with versions for just a few dollars.
The problem is global. For example, Finnish authorities identified one company issuing fake certificates.
According to a report by Yle, a company operating in the Helsinki metropolitan area has been selling fraudulent COVID-19 health certificates. The company allegedly lacks the permit required to sell the certificates and does not test customers in most cases.
There is a high demand for the documents as numerous countries and airlines require passengers to provide proof of negative COVID-19 test results upon arrival or before boarding an international flight. Employers also require a certificate in some cases.
The company reportedly sells the counterfeit documents for 70 euros each—a fraction of the cost that private healthcare companies charge (upto 300 euros for a test and certificate). Until a couple of days ago, the service was advertised online.
In Spain, authorities arrested a pharmacy worker who sold fake negative COVID-19 test certificates so that people could travel to Morocco.
The 24-year-old man, who was arrested in El Ejido, southern Spain, charged Moroccan people 130 euros ($156) for each fake certificate which allowed them to fly home from Spain, according to the authorities. They said he had a second job running his own travel business and selling plane tickets.
Spain’s National Police added they had discovered seven cases of the suspect selling false PCR test certificates and that the investigation was ongoing.
As nations and businesses evaluate possible “vaccine certification” requirements, it is important to note that yellow fever vaccination certificates have been globally accepted for years. But there is significant fraud with those cards as well.
…[F]ake yellow fever vaccine certificates have been sold in countries such as Africa and Brazil for years.
The International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis, also known as the Yellow Card, is an official vaccination record created by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2005.
A thriving black market in Africa sells fake immunization cards says Dr. Integrity Mchechesi, who works with a technology firm to combat such forgery.
“We estimate that around 80% of yellow fever travel cards in Zimbabwe are counterfeit,” said Dr. Mchechesi, a co-founder of Vaxiglobal, a travel health consultancy.
The problem will clearly not be confined to Africa or Brazil either, especially if it becomes a requirement to enter a large public venue (e.g., concert or sporting event, as has been proposed).DONATE
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