These days, you can buy just about anything on the dark web – for a price. And as demand increases on consumers to be vaccinated if they want to take a holiday or visit a nightclub, for example, COVID-19 passport scams are becoming more prominent.

In the last three months, Check Point Research reported a 300% increase in ads for COVID-19 vaccines and fake passports on the dark web (or the darknet). Right now, users can get their hands on a fake vaccine passport certificate for around $250 USD.

The dark web is a confusing place for anyone not familiar with it, so we’re going to dive into more about these fake COVID-19 passports and explain how you can get protection from the dark web.




Passport scams to know about

In many countries across the world, including Australia, more favourable entry rules apply to those who are fully vaccinated. Those vaccinated in Australia should present an ​​International COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate (ICVC) to airline staff when boarding a flight. A similar setup is in place in other countries, too, and scammers are now capitalising on the consumer need to travel, by rolling out fake COVID-19 vaccine passports to the unvaccinated.

The dark web is only accessible through specific browser tools. Sellers are using it to not only sell fake passports, but also vaccines and fake negative COVID test certificates. One hacker even offers a “buy two get one free” deal on negative COVID tests to beat the competition.

Most commonly, sellers take payments via Bitcoin, thanks to its anonymous and hard-to-trace nature. In some cases, the conversation between buyers and sellers will move to Telegram, which provides an encrypted chat feature. They promise to send fake passports to buyers via email, which, in theory, they can then use to gain access to travel.


How to prevent dark web threats

Dark web sellers target those people that are reluctant to get vaccinated, but that still want to travel freely. However, there are a multitude of dark web threats, and doing business on this side of the internet isn’t recommended. Not only could you lose your money and/or become the victim of a phishing attack, but it’s also illegal.

Oded Vanunu of Check Point said: “It’s imperative for people to understand that attempting to obtain a vaccine, a vaccination card or negative Covid-19 test result by unofficial means is extremely risky, as hackers are more interested in your money, information and identity for exploitation.”

He also added that his research team paid $750 to a darknet vaccine seller as part of their research, and is yet to receive the vaccine.

Although not all darknet markets support the sale of fake vaccine passports, the best way to prevent dark web threats is to not engage at all. It’s unclear whether vaccines are real or not, but it’s also impossible to know whether you’ll actually receive the fake vaccine passport you buy. Making a purchase on the dark web could result in a financial loss and could put your personal information at risk.

For more information about online threats, including dark web and social media brand threats, contact FraudWatch.