About 400 vials (equivalent to 2,400 doses) of fake COVID-19 vaccine were seized by police at a warehouse in the city of Germiston (South Africa) in November 2020 – Photo: Interpol
According to the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), criminals have taken advantage of every stage of the COVID-19 pandemic to make money. Countries that are “thirsty” for vaccines are clearly more vulnerable to this type of crime.
Fool the government
In June this year, Mr. Kwon Young Jin – the mayor of Daegu, South Korea – had to publicly apologize for being nearly deceived after boasting that a foreign company promised to provide 30 million doses of Pfizer vaccine in 3 weeks. . Before that, he criticized the Korean government for buying vaccines and sent a proposal to urge the signing of a final agreement.
About two months after the scam, in mid-August, Interpol issued a global warning about organized crime groups trying to trick governments into signing fake contracts to supply COVID-19 vaccines. 19.
Interpol issued this warning after recording about 60 scams in 40 countries. In those cases, individuals working in ministries of health and hospitals received offers to purchase COVID-19 vaccines through third parties rather than directly from the manufacturer.
Often, scammers claim to represent a vaccine manufacturer or a government agency that is facilitating vaccine distribution. They reach out through both work email and personal email and the phone of the “buyer” potential.
Interpol’s warnings to 194 countries/regions are based on information provided by vaccine manufacturers themselves. The warning highlights common tricks used by scammers, including the use of websites and online accounts fake society.
August this year, newspaper Wall Street Journal (WSJ) of the US also has an exclusive investigation on this issue. Accordingly, many individuals and organizations who claim to have access to the supply of COVID-19 vaccines have contacted authorities in several dozen countries to sign “ghost contracts” worth millions of dollars.
According to the WSJ, among the countries targeted by criminals are the Netherlands, Latvia, France, Israel, the Czech Republic, Austria, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Canada and Spain. The COVID-19 vaccines offered for sale range from Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson to AstraZeneca.
In some cases, the parties even entered the contract negotiation stage, but then the buyer discovered the fraud and canceled the negotiation.
The US Department of Homeland Security has identified between 50 and 75 organizations/scammers/brokers looking for governments to buy vaccines. It is not clear if there have been any successful scams, but these schemes are believed to target developing countries where the supply of COVID-19 vaccines is limited. very limit.
As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds and countries work hard to vaccinate people safely and quickly, it is important that the vaccination process is protected from production to distribution.
Mr. Jurgen Stock (interpol secretary general)
Cooperation against fraud
Recently, a series of warnings about COVID-19 related scams have been issued. From creating websites and social media accounts selling protective equipment and medical supplies, manufacturing and delivering fake vaccines to ransomware attacks targeting critical infrastructure.
Jurgen Stock, secretary general of Interpol, said the organization’s warning showed the importance of cooperation between the public and private sectors.
“With cybercriminals, usually the private sector has the most information about incidents and attack trends. That’s what happened in the recent vaccine scams,” said Jurgen Stock.
Interpol Secretary General emphasized: “Even if a scam fails, it is important to report it to the police. This can then identify potential routes as well as alert law enforcement authorities. about these dangers”.
Currently, manufacturers claim that they only sell COVID-19 vaccines directly to the governments of other countries, not through agency.
Lev Kubiak, chief security officer of pharmaceutical company Pfizer (USA), said that the company recorded at least 86 fraudulent offers to authorities in 45 countries related to vaccines. their request.
According to Kubiak, Pfizer has shared that information with law enforcement, governments, as well as rival vaccine manufacturers.
Countries are cautious
Brazil and Argentina insist that they only sign contracts directly with vaccine manufacturers. Colombia said it had been offered a vaccine, but a third party “ran away from it” after being asked to prove that it had communicated with the manufacturer.
In Europe, France says it does not negotiate directly with vaccine distributors but through the European Commission (EC). Latvia also confirmed to buy vaccines within the framework of the contract signed by the EC with the manufacturer.