Milan — Italian police said on Saturday that they had split many online schemes proposing to sell what is called a fake European Union digital COVID-19 status certificate or coronavirus vaccine.
A police statement said a police statement said that a study coordinated by the Cybercrime Prosecutor’s Office in Milan found that thousands of people were ready to pay for fake certificates.
On Thursday, the EU announced a digital COVID-19 certificate designed to help citizens travel blocks in 27 countries and open up summer tourism.
The certificate contains a “QR” code that indicates whether the traveler has been completely vaccinated, has recently recovered from a COVID-19 infection, or has been tested negative.
Police said they were able to take control of 10 channels of cryptocurrency messaging service Telegram linked to anonymous accounts on the so-called dark web marketplace and contact sellers who need to pay in cryptocurrencies.
Prices ranged from € 110 to € 130 ($ 130 to $ 155) in an “all-inclusive” package called fake pass and vaccine vials. Some buyers are from outside the EU.
“Approximately 250,000 users have registered and 100 have attempted to interact with sellers,” said Gian Luca Berruti, head of cyber fraud at the Milan Tax Police.
It is unclear if the actual vaccine was delivered, but police said they had found some counterfeit COVID-19 certificates.
These included misidentified data, a specially generated QR code, and batch numbers for the first and second doses of the vaccine.
Mr Beruti said police identified many suspects but did not provide further details.
“I want to clarify that anyone with these fake certificates, including buyers, is at risk of being prosecuted for crimes that could result in up to six years’ imprisonment, including fraud and the use of false documents. I think, “he said.
This scheme was revealed using two artificial intelligence tools that allow police to monitor the Web in real time and interact as potential customers.
“It’s like our outpost on the Internet,” Beruti said.
Emilio Parody and Elvira Polina