BALTIMORE — The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland has seized three websites falsely claiming to be biotechnology companies developing treatments for COVID-19.
Prosecutors allege “healthbridgescience.com,” “global-pandemic-vaccines.com,” and “genobioscience.com” were actually used to collect the personal information of people visiting the sites, in order to use their information for fraud, phishing attacks, and/or deployment of malware.
The investigations began in March.
Homeland Security Investigations were initially notified of two fraudulent websites “healthbridgescience.com” and “genobioscience.com,” by a true FDA approved biotechnology company who complained the fake sites looked nearly identical to theirs.
Neither of the phony sites contained registrant or contact information, which prosecutors say is often a sign of someone trying to conceal their identity to avoid being tracked by victims or law enforcement. One of the sites also did not use secure communication technology, potentially compromising any sensitive information shared on the site.
The third domain name, “global-pandemic-vaccines.com,” sold COVID-19 vaccines that falsely claimed were manufactured by FDA authorized pharmaceutical companies and did not require storage in subzero temperatures.
But its registrar organization was listed as “WhoisProtection.cc,”in Malaysia, which is a privacy service used to shield a domain registrant’s actual information from being seen publicly.
The telephone number on the website happened to be associated with a messaging application while the street address is that of a restaurant and postal shipping center in Torrance, California.
On March 15, undercover Special Agents called the number and spoke to someone who agreed to sell 50 vials of the counterfeit vaccines for $20 each with a $500 deposit, with $500 more due upon receipt of the vaccine doses. The invoice ended up containing payment information for a specific bank account.
Anyone visiting those sites now will see a message that it has been seized by the federal government and be redirected to another site for additional information.
If you believe you are a victim of a fraud or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, you may also call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721.