BALTIMORE (WJZ) — As Marylanders continue to get vaccinated against covid-19, federal and state investigators are on the lookout for fraud related to vaccinations and coronavirus treatments.
Three domain names were recently seized by the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s office after they were acting like websites for biotechnology companies with treatments for COVID-19.READ MORE: FBI Issues Warning Surrounding Scammers, Fake COVID-19 Vaccine Cards
The websites, “healthbridgescience.com,” “global-pandemic-vaccines.com” and “genobioscience.com,” all said they were developing treatments for the COVID-19 virus, but instead were collecting personal information from people visiting the website. Then using that information for fraud, phishing attacks or deploying malware, authorities said.
“We have now seized a total of eight fraudulent websites that seek to illegally profit from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner. “We urge all Maryland residents to be skeptical – don’t provide personal information or click on links in unsolicited e-mails and remember that the COVID-19 vaccine is not for sale. The Federal government is providing the vaccine free of charge to people living in the United States. We will continue to aggressively prosecute fraudsters who seek to prey on unsuspecting residents and their families.”
According to a release, Homeland Security and the National Intellectual Property Rights Center received notifications about two fraudulent websites — “genobioscience.com” and “healthbridgescience.com” — in March 2021 and began investigating them. The third site was discovered by Homeland Security Investigations’ Cyber Crimes Center and referred to the Baltimore office for investigation.
“The danger with these illegitimate sites is that they can appear legitimate to the average viewer—all the more reason to exercise caution when searching for COVID-19 pandemic information,” said Special Agent in Charge James Mancuso for HSI Baltimore. “As part of our cyber mission, HSI is committed to denying online scammers the ability to deceive and profit from the American people by exploiting the demand for vaccines and treatments.”
A biotech company, which was granted an FDA emergency use authorization with their COVID-19 antibody drug cocktail treatment, told federal authorities they did not own either domain name. The sites were registered on Feb. 21 and March 24 of this year but no registrant name was listed on either site.
The third site, “global-pandemic-vaccines.com,” offered COVID vaccines for sale. That site was created on Feb. 26 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The contact info was also linked to a spoof shop in Torrance, California.
HSI agents called the phone number listed on March 15 and an unknown person agreed to sell 50 vials of the counterfeit vaccines for $20 each with a $500 deposit and the remaining due upon receipt of the vaccine doses. The invoice contained information for a specific bank account.
If you believe you are a victim of a fraud or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, you may also call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or for more information e-mail justice.gov/coronavirus.