Fake COVID-19 vaccine passports for sale online

Fake COVID-19 vaccination certificates are being sold online for hundreds of dollars.
One user on the encrypted message app, Telegram, told 9News he was selling counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination certificates for $500 in Bitcoin.

He even produced a dummy version of the document, which was close to the real thing.

One user on the encrypted message app, Telegram, told 9News he was selling counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination certificates for $500 in Bitcoin. (9News)

But this online criminal isn’t the only one cashing in on the growing value of vaccination.

NSW Police Cybercrime Commander Detective Superintendent Matthew Craft said his officers work closely with other agencies to monitor and investigate the sale of all manner of fraudulent documents that are available to purchase online.

“Police are aware of the illegal sale of COVID-19 vaccination certificates and conduct regular proactive operations on the dark web to disrupt such illicit activities,” he told 9News.

Despite the best efforts of police the ease of manufacturing these fraudulent documents is alarming.

Software engineer Richard Nelson is not fully vaccinated, yet he was able to trick the Medicare Express Plus app into generating his vaccination certificate.

Since sharing his experience online, he’s been contacted by strangers online, asking him to do the same for them.

Fake COVID-19 vaccination certificates are being sold online for hundreds of dollars.
Fake COVID-19 vaccination certificates are being sold online for hundreds of dollars in Bitcoin. (9News)

“I’ve had people contact me on LinkedIn and Twitter, even though I thought I was clear that I just wanted (the app) to be better, but I’ve had these requests asking for these fake passports,” he told 9News.

Service Australia says the current COVID-19 vaccination certificate contains anti-fraud measures, including an animated tick, shimmer effect on the coat of arms and a clock.

Mr Nelson says those features all appeared on his fake certificate.

“In the video that I demonstrated, where I haven’t been fully vaccinated yet, it had all of that, with my name on it. So these features are not really features, they can easily be worked around.”

Overseas, the appetite for counterfeit COVID-19 documents is enormous.

In the US, a black market certificate sells for around US$200, while a recent police sting in Italy disbanded a group selling green passes for 500 euros.

Fake COVID-19 vaccination certificates are being sold online for hundreds of dollars.
The user produced a dummy version of the document, which was close to the real thing. (9News)

Services Australia General Manager Hank Jongen said the COVID-19 vaccination certificates provide a “safe and secure” method for people to obtain their own COVID-19 digital certificate.

“We take the security of these certificates very seriously and it’s an ongoing evolution as we improve the security,” he told 9News.

Mr Jongen said ultimately, it’s up to the states to decide on how to verify proof of vaccination.

“As state and territory government’s ease restrictions, it’s up to them to define what their needs are for people to verify their vaccinations.”

From next Monday, fully-vaccinated NSW residents will be able to gather in groups of five in outdoor public places.

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They will have to provide proof of vaccination on request, which includes the digital certificates or a copy of their vaccination history.

Service NSW is also working with the Federal Government on the ability to display a COVID-19 vaccination certificate within the Service NSW app.

In NSW, the possession, use and manufacture of non-genuine vaccination certificates is a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment.

Anyone who suspects someone of manufacturing fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination certificates can report it here.

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