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Officials warn of scammers claiming to have COVID vaccines for sale

Online scams target Americans seeking vaccine
Online scams target Americans desperate for coronavirus vaccine 01:51

Law enforcement officials are warning of a growing number of online scams tied to COVID-19 vaccinations. Demand for the vaccine is fueling a new type of scam: Vaccines for sale, according to a report from Digital Citizens Alliance and Coalition for a Safer Web — two nonprofits that focus on internet safety. The report, obtained by CBS News, is set to be released Tuesday.

"Our investigation found that there are criminals and scammers who are preying on Americans who are desperate to get the vaccine," said investigator Tom Galvin.

Investigators say they found sellers through Facebook posts, like one referring to a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine to get around Facebook's defenses. Once the investigators clicked on Facebook messenger in the link, someone tried to sell them a vaccine produced by Sinovac, which is not approved for use in the United States.

"It's not even about selling the vaccine. Maybe it's just about financial fraud, separating the person from their money," illicit drug expert Eric Feinberg said.

Galvin said he paid $175 for the Pfizer vaccine from another online seller. So far, all he's gotten is a letter asking for more money.

They're pushing social media companies to do more. The investigators argue that if they can find these pages, the companies, giants that they are, should be able to as well.

The Department of Homeland Security said these sites are becoming a growing problem.

"There are dozens of them out there. We are regularly encountering them. We are taking them down on a daily basis. We're working with other law enforcement, with prosecutors to take them down," said Michael Alfonso, an assistant special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations.

The bottom line, he said: There is no legitimate vaccine for sale.

After CBS News flagged Facebook to those pages, they took them down and said they have expanded efforts to remove vaccine misinformation.

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