Fake COVID Pass Scams: A Lucrative Bitcoin Business

There’s a wild scam going around where people who are skeptical about vaccines are getting tricked into buying fake COVID-19 vaccine passes. And guess what? These scammers are making a killing, bagging over $280,000 in bitcoin!

Some folks at a company that spots disinformation, Logically, have been tracking this. They’ve found more than a thousand accounts on a social media platform, X (which used to be Twitter), directing these vaccine skeptics to Telegram channels. There, they run into fake doctors peddling all kinds of dodgy medical documents.

This whole scheme has been going on since at least June 2022. It’s massive, reaching over 3 million people, with 62,000 posts, and has processed a whopping $286,000 in crypto.

The scammers have different tricks up their sleeves. Some are selling fake COVID travel passes for $250 to $500 in bitcoin. Others are exploiting fears about future pandemics or other vaccines, offering bogus results for diseases like tuberculosis, tetanus, or polio.

The Strange Belief in ‘Unvaccinated Sperm’

And get this, there’s a bizarre belief that’s still around even after COVID: “Unvaccinated sperm will be the next bitcoin.”

Out of the 60 Telegram channels selling these fake docs, 25 have admins pretending to be doctors. What’s more, 13 channels use the images of real medical professionals. One even claims to be a “coalition of doctors” and is using the name of a real plastic surgeon with a big social media following.

A doctor from Texas, who’s being impersonated by these fraudsters, shared with WIRED how unsettling it is when your identity is used for harmful purposes like fraud or spreading misinformation. The scary part? Scammers can now whip up fake videos using AI, making it super tough for anyone to figure out if an account is legit or not.

Researchers believe that those buying these fake documents probably never receive them. It looks like the whole operation is just about making money.