Three websites purporting to be companies developing coronavirus vaccines and treatments were actually stealing people’s personal information and have been seized by Maryland officials.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland announced on Wednesday it seized the three websites, “healthbridgescience.com,” “global-pandemic-vaccines.com,” and “genobioscience.com.”
One of the sites, “global-pandemic-vaccines.com,” offered coronavirus vaccines for sale and claimed they were granted FDA emergency use authorization, the attorney’s office said.
All of the sites were allegedly being used to collect personal information to be used for fraud, phishing attacks, and malware.
The seizures of the fraudulent come as the U.S. continues the rollout of coronavirus vaccines across the country, with many people relying on the internet to schedule appointments.
“The danger with these illegitimate sites is that they can appear legitimate to the average viewer—all the more reason to exercise caution when searching for COVID-19 pandemic information,” Special Agent in Charge James Mancuso for HSI Baltimore said in a statement.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release that undercover agents called a phone number on “global-pandemic-vaccines.com,” where someone offered to sell 50 vials of the counterfeit vaccines for $20 each with a $500 deposit, with the other $500 due after getting the vaccine doses.
The other two websites, “healthbridgescience.com” and “genobioscience.com” were flagged by a company that was granted FDA emergency use authorization for a drug cocktail treatment for coronavirus. The two fraudulent sites, according to officials, were made to look “nearly identical” to the legitimate company.
“We urge all Maryland residents to be skeptical – don’t provide personal information or click on links in unsolicited e-mails and remember that the COVID-19 vaccine is not for sale,” Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner said in a statement.