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Scammers target gullible Irish anti-vaxxers by charging €250 for false Covid cert

The gangs are promoting anti-vax ­conspiracy theories so they can subsequently con unvaccinated Irish citizens
The scammers spread false information to dupe customers

The scammers spread false information to dupe customers

Alan Sherry

scammers are trying to cash-in on Irish anti-vaxxers by falsely claiming they can get them officially registered as vaccinated for €250 and persuading them to hand over their personal details.

The gangs, who are ­operating on the Telegram encrypted messaging app, are promoting anti-vax ­conspiracy theories and ­misinformation so they can subsequently con unvaccinated Irish citizens.

In what has all the hallmarks of a scam, one gang this week claimed to the Sunday World that they had contacts within the health service who could falsify Covid-19 passports.

While prices were initially advertised at €300 in Bitcoin per Covid cert, the scammer told a Sunday World reporter they could get them registered as vaccinated for €250 within 48 hours of payment.

The Sunday World asked one of the gang members if they had secured Covid certs for Irish people before and the scammer claimed: "Yes, I have don [sic] them. Right now, I'm processing 20 passes for a family. The pass will be with your name and with the information you will provide."

They claimed they had someone working with the health service who could enter anyone's details on the system.

Our reporter asked the scammer to put them in contact with fellow Irish citizens who had bought passes off them - so they could verify they would work.

While the scammer initially claimed he would, he never followed through on his promise.

He eventually got back to say he couldn't because of a "private [sic] policy".

He later reduced the asking price for the Covid cert to €75 after our reporter told the scammer they could get a dozen friends to buy one as well if the first was given for free.

In the end the scammer ­refused, citing various excuses.

Despite trying hard to persuade our reporter to send him €75, the scammer went on to claim he was making thousands of euro every day from the operation.

He eventually realised we were not going to hand over any money to him and when we put it to him that he was a scammer he declined to deal with our reporter any further.

As well as trying to make cash the gang are likely involved in identity theft. They ask for personal details, including full name, date of birth and PPS number and email address which could all be used by scammers for various fraudulent offences.

In a series of poorly written posts they also claimed to have people inside other health services around the world including in the UK, USA, Australia and other European countries who could register unvaccinated people as vaccinated. They also addressed the fact they were being accused of being scammers.

"Please note we don't force people to work with us we keep to our good work with the team and get all your orders delivered as always and if you the type who come here talking about being ripped off already, being skeptical bout the whole running well this ain't the right place for you to shop so you shouldn't be here.

"We want to thank our loyal clients that have been working with us and we are greatful for all the trust, love y'all. [sic]"

The scam gang also publish numerous conspiracy theories about vaccines and claim that people who take them will die.

"If you comply to the experimental injections, you will die, if you don't comply they will cut your access to food and you will starve," they claim.

They go on to promote more nonsense theories about vaccines, 5G and anti-vaxxers being targeted with electromagnetic weapons while encouraging their followers to spread the theories.

"Watch out and stay away from the vaccine its poisonous. Kindly pass out the message to those who are still blind out there. So many secrets are hidden from us."

Despite seeking payment they also claim they are offering the service "to safe [sic] lives".

A spokesperson for Department of Health declined to comment.

Dom Botting a senior threat analyst cybersecurity firm Webroot told the Sunday World that the gang are effectively operating two scams at once.

"The criminals operating here could be profiting twice. Once by scamming their victim out of money for a fraudulent vax cert and a second time by eliciting valuable personal information.

"This data can then be used to further extort their victims or could be sold on the black market to other crooks."

He said there were particular dangers in handing over the information the scammers were requesting, such as date of birth and PPS number.

"While any personal information can be dangerous in the hands of a malicious actor, the information you are required to hand over here is particularly worrying.

"A date of birth can be used to help reset a password and this feature can be abused. DOB is also used by many websites for login, including banking services. A stolen PPS can be used for welfare or medical fraud."

A Garda spokesman said: "There have been no reports, at this time in relation to the use of fake vaccine/recovery certificates.

"An Garda Síochána wishes to advise that any person supplying false Covid vaccination certificates is committing an offence."

Meanwhile, the HSE has not made any plans to open the booster campaign to people aged 40-49 next week, chief executive Paul Reid has said.

Mr Reid twice refuted the reports that people in this age cohort would begin receiving a booster next week and said the HSE is focussing on current eligible cohorts.

This comes as 4,004 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed this afternoon while 481 patients are hospitalised, of which 111 are in ICU.

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