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Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office Seizes Domain Name Falsely Purporting to Provide COVID-19 Vaccines

OCI BadgeDepartment of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Maryland

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Website Falsely Purported to Sell COVID-19 Vaccines Online and Provide Same-Day Worldwide Delivery; COVIDReliefSociety.org is the10th Fraudulent Domain Seized by Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office and HSI 

Baltimore, Maryland – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland has seized “COVIDReliefSociety.org” which purported to sell vaccines for the COVID-19 virus online and have them delivered the same day anywhere in the world. Instead the website was allegedly used to collect the personal information of individuals visiting the site, in order to use the information for nefarious purposes, including fraud, phishing attacks, and/or deployment of malware. Individuals visiting the site will now see a message that the site has been seized by the federal government and be redirected to another site for additional information. This is the 10th COVID fraud related domain name seized by the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The seizure of the domain name was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner and Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations - Baltimore.

“This is the 10th fraudulent website taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic that we have seized in recent months,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner. “In a time when we are urging people to get vaccinated for COVID-19, it is reprehensible that fraudsters are trying to prey on unsuspecting residents and their families. Remember that the COVID vaccine is not for sale, and the federal government is providing the vaccine free of charge to people living in the United States. We urge all Maryland residents to be skeptical - don’t provide personal information or click on links in unsolicited e-mails.”

“With the help of HSI’s cybersecurity experts, our office will continue to target bogus websites, social media platforms and any other online forums responsible for advertising counterfeit vaccines, treatments and information for COVID-19,” said Special Agent in Charge for the HSI Baltimore Field Office, James Mancuso. “We will not allow criminal networks to profit from these scams.”

According to the affidavit filed in support of the seizure, the HSI Intellectual Property Rights Center (“IPRC”) and the HSI Cyber Crimes Center (“C3”) discovered an apparent fraudulent website, named “COVIDReliefSociety.org.” A domain analysis conducted by HSI indicated the domain name was created on December 26, 2020.

The HSI Cyber Operations Officer (COO) noted a blog post on the webpage stating “you can now buy Covid-19 Vaccine Online from the Covid-19 Relief Society and have it delivered same day anywhere in the world. The vaccine is for preventing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in people aged 18 years and older. Even though the Covid-19 vaccine distribution is still slow, you can order it online from us the Covid-19 Relief Society. We can offer as much as 2 Million doses in a single expedited delivery. Send inquiries today if you are looking to order Covid-19 Vaccine online.”  This blog post contained a photograph of boxes that contained the text, “Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine.” The blog page contains a “Click Here to Buy” button, but it does not appear to function. The website contains an image of what appears to be a screen capture of the Moderna webpage, including the trademarked Moderna logo. The domain name was not authorized to utilize the trademarked Moderna logo, nor to offer their vaccines for sale. 

By seizing the site, the government has prevented third parties from acquiring the name and using it to commit additional crimes, as well as prevented third parties from continuing to access the site in its present form.

Federal law enforcement agencies are united in our efforts to fight against COVID-19 fraud.  HSI has identified tips to recognize and report COVID-19 fraud. 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 or for more information visit justice.gov/coronavirus.   

Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended HSI for its work in this investigation.  Mr. Lenzner recognized the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Baltimore County Police Department for their assistance and thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aaron S.J. Zelinsky and Sean R. Delaney, who are handling the case.

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