United Nations Organization warns of the risk of buying vaccines on the internet
Experts from the United Nations warn that while millions of people have already been vaccinated in rich countries against COVID-19, online scams with fake drugs that pose a great risk to health are proliferating.
These internet scams have exploded because there is a demand that is not covered by legal means, and the rush or desperation of some people to get immunized leads them to the illegal market.
On the dark web, fake vaccines are offered under the names of different pharmaceutical companies, with prices ranging from $ 120 to more than a thousand. These products, if they exist, may contain toxic material that is very harmful to health.
"I think that many of these vaccines do not exist at all. It is a fraud in the strict sense: if you buy it, you do not receive anything. It is a very easy way to try to earn money," the United Nations' leading expert on cybercrime explains to Efe. Neil Walsh.
"And if something is received, you can be sure that it will not be the real vaccine. At best it will be a placebo and at worst it may have harmful chemicals," sums up Walsh, director of the program against cybercrime. of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Walsh says he has never come across real vaccines on the dark web, although he acknowledges that his department lacks the means to crawl all of its forums in depth.
Many of these non-existent or counterfeit product scams not only claim to make a few hundred dollars, but to gain access to something much more valuable: shoppers' personal data.
"One of the easiest products to sell in the cybercriminal world is personal data. If someone has your email, name, date of birth, address and phone number, all that data together is very useful for criminals looking to impersonate your identity, "he explains.
Beyond fraud, the concern for Walsh is misinformation and that the negative effects of these fake drugs could raise questions about authentic vaccines.
The advice: never buy these vaccines on the internet and use common sense.
The problem with counterfeit drugs predates the pandemic. The UNODC has spent years denouncing that organized crime makes billions of dollars selling fake medicines. Eighty percent of these fraudulent drugs are sold in developing countries in Africa and Asia. Most of them come from Asia.
A 2017 World Health Organization (WHO) investigation concluded that one in ten medicines in developing countries is counterfeit, which would be behind the death of tens of thousands of people each year.
"The covid has given a boost to the fake drug market, not only because now there are more, but also because it has opened new markets, such as the western one, where you can earn a lot of money," Angela Me, chief analyst researcher, explains and trends in UNODC.
The expert affirms that organized crime always takes advantage of the gap between supply and demand.
And she recalls that fraud with basic health products also proliferated last spring because they were in short supply then, but once the legal industry met that need, those deceptions disappeared.