The demand for falsified covid vaccine documentation is on the rise, with darknet markets and secret Telegram groups now regularly selling fake vaccination cards. The trend is especially prevalent in Russia, where provision of medical services may be available only to those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to a report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), fake vaccination card production is so lucrative in Russia that doctors and nurses regularly assist fraudsters in manufacturing the credentials. This includes altering the vaccination registry to include phony entries and even destroying doses of unlabeled vaccine to create evidence for the registry.
In many other countries, vaccination cards are requisites for employment, school, or university attendance, and even travel. In the US, the FBI first warned the public to be on the lookout for fake vaccination cards in late March.
Mike Linder, emerging threats expert at Check Point Software Technologies told Modern Healthcare last week that “in the beginning, bad actors were selling fake vaccine cards on the dark web… Now much of it has migrated to peer-to-peer direct messaging platforms.”
“It’s a huge business opportunity… There’s no magic to creating them. You just use Photoshop, you take a pen, you write stuff. There’s a market to buy them.”
Example of a forged covid vaccination card that is personalized using details provided by the buyer.
Fake vaccination “passports” have been sold on darknet markets for about as long as there has been a vaccine. A reluctance to get vaccinated, for any number of reasons, has encouraged a certain segment of the global population to seek out fake documents to resume ordinary activities of their daily lives. While entirely illegal, a price tag as cheap as $10 (in some areas) may seem too good a deal for some to pass up.
In March, doses of vaccine itself – made by AstraZeneca, Sputnik, Sinopharm and Johnson & Johnson – were found to be on sale for anywhere between $500 and $750. Health experts and government officials remind the public that, in most cases, covid vaccination is free, as are official vaccination cards.