Dark Web Marketplaces and COVID-19: The Vaccines
21 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2021 Last revised: 10 May 2021
Date Written: February 10, 2021
The ongoing COVID-19 vaccination campaign has so far targeted less than 10% of the world population, and, even in countries where the campaign has started, many citizens will not receive their doses for many months. There is clear evidence that previous shortages of COVID-19 related goods (e.g., masks and COVID-19 tests) and services pushed customers, and vendors, towards illicit online trade occurring on dark web marketplaces. Is this happening also with vaccines? Here, we report on our effort to continuously monitor 164 dark web marketplaces. By April 20, we found 214 listings offering a COVID-19 vaccine, 77 of which offering officially approved vaccines and 25 fabricated proofs of vaccination. The number of currently active listings is 34, including eight listings offering the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, six the Moderna, two the AstraZeneca/Oxford, two the Sputinik V vaccine, and nine offering fabricated proofs of vaccination. Illicit trade of uncertified COVID-19 vaccines poses a concrete threat to public health and risks to undermine public confidence towards vaccination.
Keywords: Vaccine, COVID-19, Dark markets, Illicit products, Shadow economy, Bitcoin
JEL Classification: C00, C80, C82, Y80, D40, D20
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