Italian police say they have caught and stopped a series of online schemes offering to sell fake EU COVID travel certificates, as well as offers of purported coronavirus vaccines.
The country’s law enforcement says it has seized control of 10 channels on the encrypted messaging service Telegram linked to anonymous accounts in marketplaces on the so-called dark web, through which it was possible to contact the sellers, who required payment in cryptocurrency.
Such listings may be actual genuine offers, but also attempts to scam people.
“Through the internet and through these channels, you can sell things everywhere in the world,” Gianluca Berruti, head of the Milan tax police’s cyber-fraud unit told Euronews.
“What was nice is that in the offer it was said that these fake [COVID travel] passports and these vaccines were available not only in Europe, but also in other countries, for example in Switzerland, in the UK, in the US, and we also found them in New Zealand and far away countries.”
Prices ranged from €100 to €150, depending on the package. Some offers included a vial of vaccine with the certificate.
About 250,000 users had registered and one hundred tried to interact with the sellers, with some buyers coming from outside the EU.
“This also provides big possibilities for people who are selling these, but also for people who are trying to use these fake certifications,” Berruti said.
Europol says that criminals have proven to be very adaptive during the pandemic, faking COVID-19 test certificates too.
The EU’s law enforcement agency is also supporting law enforcement authorities across the continent to combat COVID-19 related crimes in high-profile operations, including a number of actions targeting cybercriminals, counterfeiters and scammers.
According to Europol, given the widespread technological means available, mostly in the form of high-quality printers and different software, fraudsters are now able to produce high-quality fake documents.