Fake COVID-19 vaccination certificates and fake test results of 29 different countries, including India, are being sold on Telegram, a report by Check Point Research said on Thursday. According to the report, a fake vaccination certificate for India is available at a price of about USD 75 (Rs 5,520) each.
Oded Vanunu, head (products vulnerability research) at Check Point Software Technologies, said there are people who don’t want to take the vaccine but still want the freedoms that come with being vaccinated such as access to places. “These people are turning to the Darknet and Telegram. Since March 2021, prices for fake vaccination cards have dropped by half and online groups for these fraudulent coronavirus services boast followings of hundreds of thousands of people.
“I strongly recommend people to not engage these sellers for anything as these vendors are after more than just selling you fake vaccination cards," Vanunu said. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, in India, various state governments have mandated certain regulations for those undertaking inter-state travel by road or air to mitigate the further spread of the virus.
Travellers are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result (RT-PCR report) or a vaccination certificate to visit some states that see large influx of tourists. The Check Point Research (CPR) report said movement regulation may have resulted in the demand for and availability of fake test results and vaccine certificates in the black market from those who do not wish to be vaccinated.
“In March 2021, the majority of the fake coronavirus certificates were advertised on the Darknet. Now, CPR sees a majority of black market activity centered around Telegram. CPR suspects the shift to Telegram has helped sellers scale their distribution efforts, reaching more consumers, faster," the report said. The advertisements spotted by CPR are specifically designed for people “who do not want to take the vaccine".
“Since March, CPR has spotted over 5,000 Telegram groups selling fake documents, making Telegram the primary selling platform. Globally, Telegram has been downloaded more than 1 billion times, and with India being the largest market," the report said.
No immediate comments were received from Telegram. One advertisement displayed “we are here to save the world from this poisonous vaccine". The advertisements highlight the ability to travel and work freely as a benefit of their product, the report said.
“Sellers mostly accept payments through PayPal and cryptocurrency (Bitcoin, Monero, Dogecoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, and others). In some cases, Steam, Amazon, and eBay gift cards are accepted," the report said. It added that sellers list their method of contact as Telegram, WhatsApp, email, Wickr, and Jabber.