DOJ Pursues Covid-19 Fraudsters Peddling Fake Vaccine Kits

Scammers have used every tool at their disposal to include credit card numbers, passwords and Medicare information from consumers during the covid-19 outbreak: robocalls, phishing emails and texts masked as World Health Organization PSAs; e-commerce facades that advertise household items; sham charities; and especially promises from one non-existent vaccine. This weekend, the Ministry of Justice announced the first target, the unnamed creator of a website called “coronavirusmedicalkit.com”. The site claimed to distribute World Health Organization “vaccination sets” for the suspiciously low price of $ 4.95.

The site was closed after a federal judge issued a restraining order, but in one complaint filed with Texas on Saturday, Justice Department attorneys described an online store with a photo of Anthony Fauci stating, “Because of the recent Coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), the World Health Organization is giving away vaccination sets. Pay only $ 4.95 for shipping. The site is said to display a FedEx logo next to a credit card field. Screengrabs included in the DOJ’s exhibits show that the site described the vaccine as a “just-add-water” brew, to “administer” in some way:

You just need to add water and the drugs and vaccines are ready to be administered. The kit consists of two parts: one contains pellets with the chemical machine that synthesizes the final product, and the other contains pellets with instructions telling the drug which compound to make. Mix two parts in a chosen combination, add water and the treatment is ready.

The same language appears almost literally in a 2016 Science Alert blog post about freeze-dried vaccine components.

It even included a bizarre “what users say” section without aa factual assessment of the effectiveness of the alleged vaccine, but six nonsensically decontextualized clips all straight from a Science Daily releasesuch as: “The studies consisted of growth rate estimates based on the cases observed in the Chinese population, and based on statistical and mathematical methods.”

The study is ongoing and it remains unclear how many people have tried to get a ‘free’ WHO vaccine package. The identity of the person behind the site also remains unknown (the defendant is a John Doe) but the wire fraud allegation seems fairly open and closed.

The Justice Department considers other perpetrators likely to be chased; it has created a site devoted exclusively to Covid-19 and, earlier this month, Attorney General William Barr instructed Every U.S. Attorney’s Office “to prioritize the investigation, investigation and prosecution of all criminal behavior related to the current pandemic.”

While the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (a division of the National Institutes of Health) has announced that it has started clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine, the Guardian points out that vaccines usually take it “A decade or more” of development before regulatory approval. Annelies Wilder-Smith, a professor of emerging infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told the newspaper that the oft-cited ’18 months’ horizon is desirable.

The World Health Organization is doing business clinical trials in several countries to try to treat people who are already infected with covid-19 using existing antiviral medications, but it has no promises deadlines. Certainly no free vaccines, regardless of an email from a “who.com” domain could tell you.

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