The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland seized freevaccinecovax.org, which claimed to be the website of a real biotech company and used branded logos from Pfizer, the World Health Organization and of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The site collected the user’s personal data “in order to use the information for nefarious purposes, including fraud, phishing attacks and / or the deployment of malware,” the US attorney’s office said.
“Members of the public should not provide personal information or click on links in unsolicited emails and should remember that the COVID-19 vaccine is not for sale. The federal government provides the vaccine free of charge to people living in the United States. Acting US Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner said in a statement.
A site scan by U.S. Department of Homeland Security investigations indicated that the domain name was created on April 27 using an IP address located in Strasbourg, France, and that the country incumbent was listed as Russia, according to the US attorney’s office.
The scam website contained a “Select your city” drop-down menu and “Apply” and “Download an app” buttons, according to the United States attorney’s office.
After a user selected a city and clicked “Apply,” a PDF file written in Cyrillic was downloaded to their computer, and they were tasked with filling it out and uploading it to the site, federal investigators said. .
“People visiting the site will now see a message indicating that the site has been seized by the federal government and will be redirected to another site for more information,” the US attorney’s office said in a press release.
The federal government seized nine websites that sought to illegally profit from the pandemic, Lenzner said. The other scam sites offered vaccines and anti-COVID-19 treatments, investigators said.
The United States Attorney’s Office recommends that anyone who suspects online fraud regarding the pandemic to call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or log on to justice.gov/coronavirus.