Beware: Website claiming to sell coronavirus vaccine shut down by US active in India
Washington: The US Department of Justice announced Sunday it had shut down a website claiming to sell a coronavirus vaccine, in its first act of federal enforcement against fraud in connection with the pandemic.
Lawsuits had been filed against the site coronavirusmedicalkit.com, which claimed to sell vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, when in fact there is no such vaccine, the Justice Department said in a statement.
However, the website is still accessible in India.
According to the US Justice Department, a Texas federal judge on Saturday ordered the site to shut down. Its homepage, however, was still accessible as of Sunday evening.
"Due to the recent outbreak for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) the World Health Organization is giving away vaccine kits. Just pay $4.95 for shipping," read a statement on the homepage.
The website claims, “You just need to add water, and the drugs and vaccines are ready to be administered.”
“There are two parts to the kit: one holds pellets containing the chemical machinery that synthesises the end product, and the other holds pellets containing instructions that tell the drug which compound to create. Mix two parts together in a chosen combination, add water, and the treatment is ready,” the website claims about a non-existent vaccine.
It also carries photographs of the supposed medical kit, and ostensible testimonials of users with incongruent text that seems to have been copied from some report about how the coronavirus spreads.
When you click on ‘order now’, the website takes you to ‘Fedex’ form to fill in your contact details, including email address, phone number and your home address for delivery, promising to ship the ‘test kit’ anywhere in the world. It also asks for your credit card information and directs you to make the payment.
It is imperative that the Indian government take immediate steps to remove or block the site.
The US Justice Department did not specify how many people fell victim to the scam, but the investigation is ongoing to identify who is behind the fraud and how much money was stolen.
The intervention by the federal judiciary system is part of ongoing efforts by US authorities to combat the spread of misinformation that has blossomed since the start of the pandemic.
Attorney General Bill Barr last week urged federal prosecutors to make stopping misinformation a priority and called US civilians to report all such abuses to the National Center for Disaster Fraud.
He also warned citizens against a variety of scams including selling fake treatments online, imitating emails from the WHO or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) intended to collect personal data, and asking for donations for imaginary organisations.
More than 33,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus in the US, and 416 have died, according to a tracker managed by Johns Hopkins University.