“Drastic measures to come – buy NOW!” “: Within criminal groups, disinformation is used to sell fake COVID passes | World news

“For anyone who does not wish to be vaccinated, here is an alternative.”

This is how false or fraudulent EU COVID certificates are advertised online by criminal groups.

They are taking advantage of anti-vaccination sentiment across Europe and increasing restrictions on unvaccinated people due to the increase in cases and the Omicron variant, to drive sales.

Sky News found evidence of the passes, which could be used as proof of vaccination to enter the UK, being advertised in at least nine European countries via social media.

Picture:
These online groups regularly post examples of fake coronavirus certificates from the EU

These passes are advertised as fake which will work the same as a legitimate pass. There is also evidence that medical professionals create fake passes using their legal access to the system.

Riccardo Croce, head of the Italian police unit responsible for investigating cybercrime, told Sky News officials are currently investigating the spread of vaccine misinformation online and its role in selling bogus leaves. -to pass.

“We have recently seen the phenomenon of selling fake COVID passes and selling real COVID passes that belong to other people. This trend of selling fake passes is increasing, ”he said.

Criminals are using common coronavirus misinformation in an attempt to capitalize on the anti-vaccination movement.

Mr Croce said: “These people who sell fake passes are pushing disinformation to encourage people to do an illegal act and buy a fake pass. They use this ideology that everyone is activist and working for the same purpose. “

There have also been warnings that some advertisements for the passes could simply be scams, with paying customers never receiving their bogus passes.

The EU COVID Certificate is a QR code that proves the holder has received two coronavirus vaccines, recently tested negative, or has recovered from the coronavirus. It can be used to allow people to access places restricted by coronavirus laws and to cross borders.

These advertisements can easily be found on various social media sites. A search for the French sanitary pass, a term for COVID pass, returns several messages for online messaging groups and phone numbers that can be used to purchase passes.

Here, an article reads: “For anyone who doesn’t want to get vaccinated, here’s an alternative” and links to a messaging group where COVID passes can supposedly be purchased.

Social media posts are used to advertise online groups and phone numbers that can be used to purchase fake passes.
Picture:
Social media posts are used to advertise online groups and phone numbers that can be used to purchase fake passes.

These online groups contain thousands of subscribers, as seen by Sky News has over 100,000 members.

The passes are advertised for around € 300 (£ 255) and payment can be made through traditional currency and untraceable cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.

Images similar to commonly shared vaccine misinformation are used to drive sales, capitalizing on reluctance to vaccinate across Europe.

Here, an article contains images purporting to be side effects of the coronavirus vaccine.

It has a caption which translates from German to: “Lots of other side effects of COVID vaccines that can lead to death. We should all be careful here, it’s not easy. We have to fight these vaccines.” The image is then followed by a username that can be contacted to purchase a pass.

This photo of an alleged side effect of a vaccine against the coronavirus, a commonly used method of misinformation, is accompanied by a caption in German that says the vaccine causes death and people should fight it.
Picture:
This photo of the alleged side effects of the coronavirus vaccine, a commonly used method of misinformation, is accompanied by a caption in German that says the vaccine causes death and people should fight it.

Another collection of photos of common misinformation about vaccine side effects bears the caption “no to vaccine” and is followed by an ad to buy COVID passes.

This misinformation about vaccines is being pushed by groups in conjunction with recent restrictions in European countries against unvaccinated people.

A German group reacted to news of Angela Merkel imposing a lockdown on unvaccinated people by posting “SOS.” It’s getting SERIOUS! Measure the 2G immediately. Buy now ! “

On December 5, the day before the ban on unvaccinated people from entering certain places, a seller wrote: “Today they are using all means to force us, to submit us like cattle … save your loved ones. share the link to save lives “and include their WhatsApp number.

In some advertisements for the passes, the administrators claim to be doctors or work closely with medical professionals. Many of these groups use titles such as dr or doc in usernames.

Johannes Bahrke, European Commission spokesperson for digital economy, research and innovation, said: “We are following the sale of bogus COVID certificates from the EU very closely. What we are seeing are certificates generated incorrectly, that is, by people who have legal access to the system who illegally operate it like a nurse or someone in a pharmacy. “

In this post, shared in a French group, it is claimed that doctors are working with those who are hiding behind the fake passes.
Picture:
In this post, shared in a French group, it is claimed that doctors are working with those who are hiding behind the fake passes.

In November, the Austrian government warned that it had detected 500 bogus passes, and German authorities arrested 12 people accused of being involved in the creation of bogus passes.


the Data and forensics team is a multi-purpose unit dedicated to providing transparent Sky News journalism. We collect, analyze and visualize data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling, we aim to better explain the world while showing how our journalism is done.

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