Global boom in black market for fake vaccine certificates

Check Point Research (CPR) reports a boom in the black market for fake vaccine certificates on Telegram, following US President Biden’s vaccine mandate announcements.

The black market for fake vaccine certificates has expanded to serve 28 countries, nine of which are new, including: Austria, Brazil, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Singapore, Thailand, UAE.  

Prices globally range from US$85-US$200. Following Biden’s vaccine mandate announcement, the price for the CDC vaccine card in the US doubled, from $100 to $200.

On August 10, CPR saw roughly a 1000 vendors on Telegram. Now, CPR sees north of 10,000 vendors claiming to offer fake vaccine certificates, marking a 10x increase.

On Telegram, the vendors who sell fake vaccine certificates organize themselves in groups. The groups each have a subscriber base, indicative of demand. Prior to Biden’s announcement, CPR observed groups having around 25,000 subscribers. Biden’s announcement resulted in an immediate acceleration in the number of subscribers and followers, with some groups even peaking at a follower size as large as 300,000, a number we have not previously spotted.

CPR has spotted a new technique that sellers are using to sell more: bots. For example, in Austria, CPR found a Telegram bot that creates fake certificates for free. All one needs to do is fill in the relevant details and a .pdf file will be shared with them containing all their filled data, such as in the case attached- a negative PCR test.

Oded Vanunu, Head of Products Vulnerabilities Research at Check Point Software, said “We’ve been studying the black market for fraudulent coronavirus services all year. In January, the black market took place mostly on the Darknet, where one needed special software to access it. Back then, the market was likely designed for dealers, people who can distribute the fake goods in mass quantities within specific geographies. Over the past nine months, we witnessed a mass consumerization of the black market by a macro-shift of the black market to Telegram. Telegram appeals to vendors by its anonymity, reach and scale. As the Biden White House announced further vaccination guidelines, Check Point Research took a fresh look at the black market since our last update on August 10, 2021. The growth of the black market for fake vaccination cards has been exponential. The price for a fake CDC card has doubled. The reach of the black market expanded to include nine other countries. We estimate that the number of sellers on this back market have gone up by 10x. The number of subscribers of sellers, who organize themselves in Telegram groups, has grown by a multiple of twelve. Our expectation is that the black market for fake coronavirus vaccination cards will continue to thrive as more policy requiring vaccination proof gets rolled out.”