Paranoid anti-vaxxers are buying fake COVID passes for bitcoin

Scammers who fooled anti-vaxxers into paying up to $500 in bitcoin for dodgy COVID-19 vaccine passes have reportedly raked in more than $280,000 in crypto, reports WIRED. 

Researchers at disinformation detection company Logically found over a thousand accounts on X (formerly Twitter) luring anti-vaxxers into Telegram channels where fake doctors attempt to sell various fraudulent medical documents. 

Logically claims that the anti-vaxxer scam network, stretching back to at least June 2022, has reached over 3 million people, made 62,000 posts, and processed $286,000 in crypto.

One scam group reportedly sells COVID-related travel passes for anywhere between $250 and $500 in bitcoin. Others play on anti-vaxxers’ “vulnerabilities to being paranoid about things like the next pandemic, or other kinds of vaccines” to offer false tuberculosis, tetanus, or polio results. 

Read more: Twitter verification is making scammers millions — here’s how

Of the 60 Telegram channels selling fake documents, 25 contain admins using a “Dr.” prefix, and 13 channels reportedly use the likeness of real medical professionals. One channel calls itself a “coalition of doctors” and its owner uses the name of a real plastic surgeon with roughly 50,000 social media followers. 

A Texas-based doctor being impersonated by the scammers told WIRED, “When people are able to take that likeness and use it for bad purposes, whether it’s fraud, whether it’s misinformation, I think it’s really scary.” They added that scammers can now use AI to make fake videos, making it “really hard for an average person to sort out if this is a fake account or not.”

Researchers claim it’s unlikely any buyers receive the documents they purchase and the operation is likely financially motivated.

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