COVID-19 Vaccine Scams Spread Under Facebook and Telegram's Watch
Don’t use an iTunes gift card to purchase doses of the vaccine online
Scammers have flooded Facebook and other social media platforms with COVID-19 scams for almost as long as the disease has had a name. Now, as desperation builds for access to a limited vaccine supply, internet charlatans have escalated in kind, offering shipments of doses in Facebook groups and Telegram chats.
According to a new report from internet safety nonprofits Digital Citizens Alliance and the Coalition for a Safer Web, researchers had no trouble finding vendors with claims of vaccines ready to ship. The offers ranged from Facebook page operators willing to ship Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine—which is not authorized for use in the United States—from China, to apparent scammers on Telegram claiming to have access to Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca’s vaccines. The researchers say they looked for but did not find comparable activity on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. While similar scams had previously surged on the dark web, their presence on mainstream social networks with billions of users exposes a much wider population to potential harm.
“What you find is that these questionable masks, PPE, treatments, tests are being sold on these Facebook group pages that actually act as marketplaces for the sale and buying of questionable Covid-19 products,” saID Eric Feinberg, vice president for content moderation at CSW. “Early in January, I started noticing on these pages that posts by what I would call questionable Facebook accounts were appearing, pushing these questionable vaccines from China.”
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