As provinces across Canada increase restrictions on the unvaccinated or introduce vaccine passports, cybercriminals are attempting to cash in by offering fake vaccination certificates.
Sellers are offering fake proof-of-vaccination documents for several provinces that look merely identical to the real thing. Some of them even claim to be able to enter the data from the fake certificates into official government databases. Prices and promises differ each time by fraudsters.
For example, one seller is offering fake proof-of-vaccination cards or QR codes for several provinces — including Manitoba and B.C. — for $200, payable in Bitcoin or Ethereum cryptocurrencies. The fraudsters agree to deliver the fake documents within 48 hours by mail or electronically.
CBC News reached out to a seller and they sent a picture of an Ontario proof-of-vaccination form that looks identical to those being issued by many Ontario vaccination clinics. There was also fake proof-of-vaccination documents for B.C and Manitoba that mirror official documents.
Another seller allegedly based in Montreal was being followed by 320,065 subscribers when it was viewed by CBC News. There was fake proof-of-vaccination from several jurisdictions around the world — and featured photos of an Alberta proof-of-vaccination certificate that resembles the real one.
There could be several fake vaccination documents in Canada.
Provincial health authorities can ensure the fake vaccination data is inserted into government databases.
Provinces say they’re protecting their data. For example, Marielle Tounsi, senior public affairs officer for British Columbia’s ministry of health, said the province started using QR codes in addition to government-issued photo ID to protect their data.
Manitoba’s health department says data must be entered into the provincial PHIMS database by government officials, which has an individual’s address and immunization record. Anyone unvaccinated in Manitoba who enters a space where vaccination is required may get a fine of $1,296.
Ontario Health Ministry spokesperson Bill Campbell stated that over 80 per cent of Ontario residents over 12 years old already have received two doses and receive a certificate. Campbell said QR codes will be available in October.
Campbell didn’t answer questions about if someone added fake vaccination data in the provincial database. However, he did state that false or inaccurate information to a business about vaccination status could result in a fine of $750 to $100,000 and up to a year in jail.
Liad Mizrachi, senior researcher with Check Point Software Technologies, researched sellers’ claims that they have access to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s website of vaccinated people across Europe. Mizrachi discovered that “the sellers send false documentation from a fake European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control website, which might convince unwitting border officials or venue staff that a person is genuinely registered as fully vaccinated, which is clearly not the case.”
Mizrachi suggested that “governments around the world should come together on a unified global database to verify legitimate vaccination certificates.”
Robert Falzon, head of engineering at Check Point Software’s Canadian office, said the company first saw offers to sell fake vaccination certificates in the United States but increased quickly in Canada.
Falzon said sellers on the dark web want to maintain their reputations.”The dark web marketplaces, they’re just like a regular store in a lot of ways. They have reviews and they’re also trying to continue to do business for other things,” he said. “So you’ll find people leaving reviews for drug purchases and weapons purchases and saying this person was a wonderful seller and so forth.”
Derek Manky is the Vancouver-based chief of insights and global threat alliances at Fortinet’s FortiGuard Labs, a cybersecurity firm. Manky said that his company is seeing attempts on the dark web to lure people with offers of fake vaccination documents, focusing on different regions in different languages.
Manky said fake double-dose vaccine documents are being offered in Canada at prices as high as $1,000 and claim the data will be entered into a national database. Cybercriminals should never be trusted, there are high risks involved in buying fake vaccination certificates online.
As of right now, police have reported few cases of Canadians with fake vaccination documents.
Jeff Thomson, senior RCMP intelligence analyst at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, said the centre has received just four reports about false vaccination documents since July 1 :
- An anonymous report about a website selling fake certificates,
- A fake certificates being sold on Instagram and Snapchat,
- A website selling vaccine and mask exemption paperwork and
- A person approached on Facebook by someone with the same name asking if they were willing to sell their vaccination QR code.
Tammy Jarbeau, senior media relations adviser for Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), said that as of Sept. 14, seven fines have been issued for fraudulent COVID-19 test results and two fines have been issued for suspected falsified or fraudulent vaccination documents presented at a point of entry to Canada.
Jarbeau declared that fines have been issued in British Columbia and Ontario for falsified documents and reports have been made to police in Ontario and Alberta. This article was originally sourced by CBC.