Emerging out of the woodwork to profit from the systemic challenges of controlling the variant, fraudsters are also upping their prices.
Amid the new waves of infections driven by the Omicron variant, Dark Web and underground vendors of forged COVID-testing certificates have increased their activity in recent weeks.
As countries around the world introduce or reinforce measures to control the spread of the new variant, a resurgence in counterfeit test and vaccination certificates can derail efforts to keep people safe.
According to Check Point Research (CPR), the high transmissibility and rapid spread of the Omicron variant, combined with issues around the resourcing and supply of test kits has created a new gap in the market that fraudsters are once again looking to exploit.
At least one group that was active during the waves of the Delta variant wave that had gone quiet in October 2021 has resurfaced to exploit the situation. Potential customers could either be people who have tested positive, or those who have refused to take a test or are unwilling to have the vaccine. Even innocent people can fall victim to sellers of fake certificates, being lured to such alternatives due to various systemic shortages or other reasons.
Going rates for fake results
Not only have sales of fake certificates restarted: there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of money changing hands in this dark market.
According to CPR, shortly after the initial announcement of vaccination certificates in 2021, counterfeit PCR and antigen test certificates were typically selling for US$75–100. In this latest awakening of the dark market, the same documents are priced at US$200–600, an increase of up to 600%.
Said Liad Mizrachi, Security Expert, CPR: “Without a centralized system in place for test and vaccine certification, it is very easy for scammers to exploit the current situation to their advantage. Some fraudster groups that have been dormant for months are resurfacing to reap what they can from changing pandemic landscape.”
Yet, vaccination certification requirements have not been support by sufficient resources for test kit supplies and manpower, thereby creating a perfect opportunity for scammers. “They are once again operating with quiet confidence, as evidenced by the bold and dramatic increase in prices we are seeing on the dark market. Governments need to come together quickly in order to combat this latest dark market surge or risk seeing counterfeit documents increase in number over the coming weeks and months.”