An underground market selling fake coronavirus vaccine passports and negative tests is experiencing a boom, with more than 1,200 vendors discovered both in the UK and worldwide, selling fake paperwork for as little as £25.
Counterfeit coronavirus paperwork being sold through the dark web.
Last month, MPs were informed that as many as 100 people per day were trying to enter the UK with forged coronavirus documents, with the majority being caught at the border. A Border Control official disclosed to The Guardian that most fake-paperwork holders were from ‘poorer nations, including African, South American and Asian countries.’
Anti-vaxxers, those who refuse vaccines due to belief in conspiracy theories or dangerous misinformation, have also found to be bearers of fake coronavirus passports and tests. Liad Mizrachi of the cybersecurity firm Check Point revealed:
We have all the people against vaccinations. These two groups are combining perfectly together. ‘I don’t want to get vaccinated,’ [and] someone says: ‘Hey, you can get your vaccine certificate here.’ It’s significant.
Researchers also tracked downcounterfeit copies of the vaccine appointment cards by the National Health Service (NHS) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and negative COVID tests all over easily accessible apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Jabber.
Mizrachi and Oded Vanunu of Check Point demonstrated to The Guardian how to purchase the fake coronavirus vaccine cards online, with the fakes looking remarkably similar to the real things. The Check Point staff revealed that people proudly posting photos with their vaccine cards online act as a resource for duplication, making it all the easier to generate dupes.
One of the ‘prank’ coronavirus cards was available to purchase for just £25 with multiple disclaimers that the paperwork was not authentic and not intended for official use.
The UK’s Home Office has spoken out, claiming that the authenticity of all documents will be checked at the border and anyone caught with fake coronavirus tests or passports will be denied entry and could face up to a £500 fine:
Border Force is checking that every passenger has complied with current health measures when arriving at the border. Providing falsified documents is against the law. Border Force officers are trained to detect falsified and counterfeit documents and have the right to refuse entry and issue [a] £500 fine to any visitor they believe has travelled to the UK using fraudulent COVID test certificates.
The spokesperson continued:
Individuals who fail to comply with their legal duty to quarantine at home following international travel can be fined £1,000, increasing to £10,000 for repeat offences.
Fake vaccines are also being sold on the dark web
It’s not just fake coronavirus paperwork that’s on offer through the dark web. Many vendors have also been attempting to sell counterfeit vaccines and coronavirus treatments through message services.
Vanunu found that coronavirus drugs were being sold online as early as October, with the Russian vaccine Sputnik and the Chinese vaccine Sinovak being among those on offer. Later on in the year, security started to witness both Moderna and Pfizer jabs being offered over the dark web. However, their authenticity has been questioned due to the fragility of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in transport. Vanunu explained:
Since the start of the epidemic in 2020, we started to see the darknet produce supply channels for things related to COVID. At the beginning, it was offering the accessories that were missing: the masks, the protective equipment. There was a lot of discussion about treatments. We started to see these drugs for sale on the darknet.