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Website domains containing the word vaccine in combination with COVID-19 or coronavirus more than doubled since October to roughly 2,500 in November, when the first legitimate vaccines were nearing regulatory approval, according to cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, which is tracking COVID-19 fraud online.

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“So far a lot of these domains just appear to be opportunistic registrations, but some are going to be used for phishing attempts to have people click on (malicious) links,” said Lindsay Kaye, director of operational outcomes at Recorded Future.

Kaye said her team, which also scours the dark web, so far has not come across any legitimate vaccine diverted from healthcare facilities or national stockpiles.

The scams are preying on concerns about the far slower-than-promised rollout of vaccines to protect against the virus that has claimed more than 1.8 million lives worldwide so far. Most people will likely have to wait well into the spring, or even summer, to get their shot.

In the United States, only about 4.5 million people had received their first shot as of Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. That is a fraction of the 20 million who were supposed to have been vaccinated by the end of 2020, according to earlier government forecasts.

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VACCINES, GUNS AND MONEY

On dark web forum Agartha, fake COVID-19 vaccines were offered next to cocaine, opioid medication, “super high quality fake money,” hand guns and gift cards. Posts showed stock photos of vaccines and offered vials for $500 and $1,000, or the equivalent in Bitcoin.