According to a report by ECO, Check Point Research (CPR) has warned of the recent resurgence of counterfeit tests and fake vaccination certificates on the black market, namely in Portugal, stating that the price of false documents related to Covid-19 has increased by 600%.
“The new wave of infections driven by the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has been exploited by sellers of counterfeit certificates who, in recent weeks, as many countries strengthen measures to contain the pandemic, have increased their activity.”
Warning that "governments must come together quickly to combat the latest black market growth", CPR warns that "if they don't, the risk of the number of falsified documents increasing in the coming weeks and months is very high".
Ensuring that “Portugal is no exception”, CPR presents a real example of a Telegram group, called 'Covid-19 Portugal Vaccine Certificate', “where the almost 800 subscribers are encouraged to make the illicit purchase of a vaccination certificate which the advertiser describes as '100% authentic' and guarantees that they “can be used for work, school, public spaces and for travel”.
The research unit also notes a “dramatic increase in monetary amounts transacted in exchange for a falsified vaccination or testing certificate”.
“Shortly after the presentation of vaccination certificates in 2021, counterfeit PCR tests and antigens could be purchased for 75 to 100 dollars [about 65 to 87 euros]. In the most recent resurgence of the black market, these same documents are on sale for 200 to 600 dollars [about 175 to 525 euros], which represents growth of up to 600%”, they point out.
According to CPR, “the high transmissibility and rapid spread of the Omicron variant, together with the difficulties in meeting the demand for Covid-19 tests, have created a new gap in the market, which is being used to profit”.
“There is at least one fraudulent group that returned to activity after a period of silence in October 2021 which, in turn, followed the use of the Delta variant”, they advance, explaining that “potential customers can either be people who tested positive for the disease, such as people who refuse to be tested or vaccinated”.
“For these people, the alternative is often to start a search on the Internet. Among the victims, there may also be innocent users who end up being attracted to fraudulent or suspicious domains, while looking for genuine guidance and advice”, they say.
Quoted in the statement, the security expert at Check Point Software considers that “without a centralized testing and vaccine certification system, it is all too easy for scammers to exploit the current situation to their advantage.”
“That's certainly what we're seeing here, with some fraudulent groups that have been dormant for months resurrecting to reap what they can from the changing pandemic landscape,” says Liad Mizrachi.