NEW DELHI: Fraudulent vaccination certificates and fake test results from 29 various countries, including India, are being offered on Telegram, according to cyber security firm Check Point Research (CPR).
A fake vaccination certificate for India can be purchased for around $75 (Rs 5,500 aprox).
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, different state governments in India have enacted laws for persons travelling between states by road or air in order to prevent the virus from spreading further.
To visit states like Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, travellers must have a negative COVID-19 test result (RT-PCR report) or a vaccination certificate.
Following the second wave of the pandemic in India, these states saw a considerable influx of tourists. These laws may have resulted in a black market demand for and supply of false test results and immunisation certificates from persons who do not want to be vaccinated.
The majority of the fake coronavirus certificates were marketed on the Darknet in March 2021.
Telegram is now the focal point of the majority of black market activity, according to CPR.
CPR believes that switching to Telegram has aided vendors in scaling their distribution operations, allowing them to reach more customers faster.
Oded Vanunu, Head of Products Vulnerability Research, Check Point Software Technologies said, “Check Point Software has been studying the Darknet and Telegram for coronavirus-related activities all year. Vendors are choosing to advertise and do business on Telegram because Telegram is less technical to use compared to the Darknet, allowing them to reach an inordinate amount of people, fast.”
“We believe the broader market surge is fueled by the rapidly spreading Delta variant and the stemming urgency for everyone to become vaccinated. 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,” said Vanunu.
CPR claims that it discovered hundreds of ads in the Darknet advertising purported vaccines for sale in December 2020. The hundreds of advertisements displayed at the time represented a 400 per cent increase over previous months.
While the global roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations began to pick up speed in March 2021, the number of ads tripled to over 1,200, with dealers based in the United States and European countries like Spain, Germany, France, and Russia.
Each fraudulent ‘vaccine passport’ cost $250, whereas each fake negative COVID-19 test result cost only $25.
Vanunu added 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,” he said.