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Fraudulent COVID Drugs Sold Online; Websites Shut Down

ComputerCrime

The COVID pandemic has left people scared, worried that they might get seriously ill or even die. Now that there are vaccines, the fear has subsided, but many people were once looking for treatments to help them avoid contracting the deadly virus. This has led to many internet crimes, including online scams.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland recently took down two websites that were created to sell fraudulent drugs to prevent and treat COVID-19. The sites—http://pharmacywalmart.com and https://stromectol-ivermectin.com—were meant to mimic a Walmart website. The sites included the Walmart logo and were created to look like a legitimate Walmart site. These were the 12th and 13th COVID fraud-related domain names seized by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Those who accessed the sites thought they were buying medications. Instead, their personal information was being stolen through the domains. The site creators were using the sites to create phishing attacks and deploy malware. Those who visit the sites will now be redirected to another site.

An analysis showed that http://pharmacywalmart.com was created on November 4, 2019, from Russia. The phone number on the site,+1-718-475-90-88, looked suspicious, as the format did not match a phone number based in the United States. The website claimed to sell various drugs  for the experimental prevention or treatment of COVID-19, including:

  • Aralen (Chloroquine), which is used for malaria
  • Kaletra (Lopinavir and Ritonavir), which are used for HIV
  • Stromectol (Ivermectin), which is used to treat parasites

None of these drugs have been approved to prevent or treat COVID-19. When describing Kaletra, the domain name claimed that “Kaletra shows positive results in a blockage of a COVID-19 viral replication.” This statement is untrue and not supported by clinical trials or the FDA.

Neither domain name was authorized by Walmart. Now that the government has seized the sites, third parties cannot acquire the names nor access the sites in their present form.

Operation Stolen Promise

This investigation was launched as part of Operation Stolen Promise by the HSI in April 2020. The goal is to protect Americans from threats caused by COVID-19-related fraud. As of May 2021, HSI has arrested 281 people and seized more than $49 million in fraudulent proceeds. The HSI worked with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to seize more than 2,100 shipments of fraudulent COVID-19 test kits.

Contact a Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney Today

The COVID pandemic has brought about numerous scams. Many people are trying to take advantage of individuals and agencies to get money fraudulently. Since many people shop online, creating fraudulent websites is a good way to scam many people quickly.

Internet crimes are taken seriously. You could face state and federal charges. Seek legal help from the Columbia internet crimes lawyers at The Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A. Let us help you avoid a potential conviction. Call (410) 774-5987 or fill out the online form to schedule a consultation. We have two offices to serve you.

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