Online fraudsters are heading to our favourite social media platforms to push cards that apparently guarantee the card’s holder has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
That’s the conclusion of a joint investigation conducted by the US-based Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA) and the Coalition for a Safer Web (CSW). The collaboration discovered hundreds of posts from sellers offering the scam ID cards, many of which held lot and store numbers, as well as other details to increase the deception.
Most troubling is that the illicit vaccination cards have remained on Facebook, Facebook-owned Instagram, and Telegram a week after the companies were alerted to their existence.
“Too often, platforms rely on the public to alert them when illegal or dangerous activities appear on their sites. But now, even when they’ve been alerted, they haven’t taken steps to remove them,” said Tom Galvin, the executive director of the Digital Citizens Alliance.
“Selling these cards is a crime. Buying these cards is a crime. If these platforms want our trust, it will take more than a name change. It requires responsible behaviour.”
The Internet safety organizations posted images from two Facebook accounts, four Instagram accounts, and six Telegram accounts in the report exposing the sales. As of October 20, all those pages and dozens of other posts not shared in the research remain accessible.
“The American people endure a pandemic made worse by US and foreign criminals who prey upon the public via social media platforms to sell counterfeit vaccination cards and hack pharmacy websites to register these forged cards,” said CSW President Mark Ginsberg.
“Our report reveals the criminality of the enterprise and the failure of Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms to protect the safety of Americans,” Mr Ginsberg added.
“This is the fourth report our organizations have done since March of 2020, on the platforms during the COVID crisis – and we showed fake vaccines for sale as well as ads for facemasks of questionable quality for sale. When does it stop?” asked CSW’s Eric Feinberg, the lead investigator on this research.
“The misinformation is horrible and needs to stop, but someone should ask the platforms how much money they’ve made from illegal and/or illicit COVID-19 related commerce? If they’ve made one dollar, it’s one dollar too much.”
Digital Citizens and CSW will share links to the posts found online upon request. Additionally, Digital Citizens is sending letters to federal regulators and pharmacies and stores that were apparently victims when bad actors shared lot and store numbers in online posts.