DOJ Correctly Takes Down Fraudulent COVID-19 Website Selling Bogus 'Vaccine Kits'

from the now-look-at-the-snake-oil-coming-from-the-white-house dept

While it always raises alarm bells when the government is taking down websites, the Justice Department's announced enforcement action against a website claiming to sell "vaccine kits" for COVID-19 appears legit. At issue was some scammer who put up a website fraudulently claiming that the World Health Organization was "giving away vaccine kits" and you just had to give this just registered website $4.95 for "shipping" and you'd get one of these kits. The website, laughably, claimed:

You just need to add water, and the drugs and vaccines are ready to be administered. There are two parts to the kit: one holds pellets containing the chemical machinery that synthesises [sic] the end product, and the other holds pellets containing instructions that tell the drug which compound to create. Mix two parts together in a chosen combination, add water, and the treatment is ready.

The DOJ complaint suggests this was all just a scam to get credit cards and purchaser info for further identity scams with no actual product ever being sent.

Again, while taking down websites always raises some 1st Amendment concerns, those don't seem to apply here. This was just blatant fraud, first claiming to be associated with the WHO, and second selling some snake oil vaccine or treatment that doesn't exist... oh, and on top of that, never actually having any product to sell, and likely using the credit card info for further scams. So, unlike some other law enforcement claims of prosecuting "false information" about COVID-19 and the response, this is a legitimate law enforcement action to stop outright fraud.

Of course, given how many lies the President has been spewing about the COVID-19 response, it wouldn't surprise me to see him point people to similar websites via a tweet before this week is over. I mean, he's already pushing people to try snake oil treatments that are literally killing people.

Filed Under: covid-19, doj, fraud, scams, takedowns, vaccine kits, vaccines


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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2020 @ 3:47pm

    But, but, but... The website had protected speech. And this is a prior restraint! The test is not probable cause if any one word is protected speech! I learned that here, Mike.

    j/k

    Glad you see the light, my friend.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 25 Mar 2020 @ 4:02pm

    Glad you see the light

    You say that like he didn’t.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2020 @ 4:14pm

    55,225 US infected confirmed and 802 deaths, up from 540 just yesturday. They need to stop the people coming out of NYC and flooding into otherwise safe areas. WTF??

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2020 @ 4:19pm

    I mean, he's already pushing people to try snake oil treatments that are literally killing people.

    And claiming that things will return to normal at Easter, while this side of the pond, anybody at high risk has been told to self isolate for at least the next 3 months..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2020 @ 4:49pm

    Re:

    They are trimming down the population. Any logical conclusion is proving that from their very apathetic actions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    David, 25 Mar 2020 @ 5:22pm

    Re:

    Well, Europe has by and large socialised health care. Being rich does not buy you exclusive access to a ventilator, so the incentive for a president like Trump to just let the shit hit the fan since the most privileged classes will have way better chances of survival is a lot less on the old continent.

    From a private economy standpoint, letting the virus ravage through makes a lot of sense: the largest toll will be among the pensioners and near-pensioners, saving companies a lot of money in the long run.

    That's probably what Trump is hoping for. Also, of course, first pick for bailout money. At least the Democrats have gotten rid of the provision (I hope) that accountability of where money was going from the treasury was to be delayed until after the presidential election.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2020 @ 5:28pm

    I'd rather see them sterilize those who believed the ad and give a medal to those who placed it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2020 @ 5:29pm

    Re:

    You say that like you and Mike aren't Siamese twins.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 25 Mar 2020 @ 5:41pm

    Re: Re:

    At least the Democrats have gotten rid of the provision (I hope) that accountability of where money was going from the treasury was to be delayed until after the presidential election.

    Wait, run that one by me again, because either I'm reading it wrong or you're saying they tried to have a provision that would have left recording who got money from the 'bailout' until after the election, which is both utterly insane and a disgusting political stunt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Bruce C., 25 Mar 2020 @ 6:12pm

    Re:

    You seem to be under the illusion that anywhere is safe. Unless they turn out a vaccine in much less time than anticipated, you will probably catch this disease within the next 12 months. You can't self-isolate for 18 months straight, and herd immunity only happens after 70% or so are infected.

    The real question is whether it's going to come back, year after year, like the flu. And whether it will still continue to kill off 10-15% of the elderly that it hits.

    USA is poised to pass Italy on Thursday and China on Friday for most cases in the world. I expect our fearless leader to step up his claims that it was a plot by the Chinese soon after. Especially if the US death count also surpasses Italy and China.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2020 @ 6:52pm

    While I don't agree with what Trump's been saying, I also don't necessarily agree with your claim he's been pushing snake oil. The chemical in question (chloroquine) is being tested and may potentially help the fight against COVID-19. The couple in question, including the deceased, found their aquarium cleaner contained the same chemical and decided they'd drink it. That's pretty stupid no matter how you look at it. Desperate times lead people to take desperate measures. The news would have reached the US eventually anyway - several other countries are also trialling the drug.

    But in times like this, Trump (and most other world leaders) need to shut up and let the experts talk.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Mar 2020 @ 7:41pm

    DOJ should correctly take down this website for it’s disgusting and apparently infectious globalist socialist Propoganda. Anti-police, anti-copyright, anti-patent, and anti-American cesspools of phony pony disguised and radicalized germs posing as real people should be met with jail time, starting with the leader. Maybe he can share an isolated and infected cell with his ideological true love, Chelsea Manning.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 26 Mar 2020 @ 12:15am

    The chemical in question (chloroquine) is being tested and may potentially help the fight against COVID-19.

    Can you pick out the one word in your sentence that proves Trump has been pushing snake oil?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 26 Mar 2020 @ 12:18am

    Anti-police, anti-copyright, anti-patent, and anti-American

    All of that is protected speech thanks to the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. 😃

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 26 Mar 2020 @ 3:12am

    Re:

    If anything it strikes me that speaking out against that which you find objectionable even, or especially, it comes from an authority seems like it would be at the core of american values, with deference to authority being much more 'anti-american'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 26 Mar 2020 @ 4:13am

    Re:

    "The website had protected speech. And this is a prior restraint! The test is not probable cause if any one word is protected speech!"

    Trying to wedge some anti-230 rhetoric into the debate again, Baghdad Bob?

    I'm not too surprised to see the copyright maximalist/anti-google/anti-230 fanatic try to use a pandemic as a grindstone for his rhetoric. I wish I was.

    Let's just say that an obvious con where a snake oil salesman tries to peddle a dysfunctional virus test is not "free speech". That's covered under actual fraud law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 26 Mar 2020 @ 4:49am

    Re:

    "They need to stop the people coming out of NYC and flooding into otherwise safe areas. WTF??"

    Not that easy. Cities aren't self-sufficient so if you clamp down on any given city what you end up with is food riots and starvation.

    With a significant proportion of city population working in the city but living in the suburbs you've got a hard choice - lock them into the city and arrange bed cots for millions of people, or prevent them from coming to work...at which point, how will they survive in the US, without the money to pay their bills?

    It's also not easy to prevent tourists from going home. Which naturally means some will bring the pandemic to Houston, LA, Chicago and Miami, for instance.

    There are no safe areas. There's only the public space where you risk infection, and your home where you probably don't.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 26 Mar 2020 @ 4:55am

    Re:

    "The chemical in question (chloroquine) is being tested and may potentially help the fight against COVID-19."

    So it is. What Trump did, though, was guaranteed to prompt a great many people to try self-medicating themselves.

    And that's arguably as lethal as COVID-19 or more. Chloroquine is NOT a harmless OTC medication.

    "But in times like this, Trump (and most other world leaders) need to shut up and let the experts talk."

    I'd argue that Trump needs to shut up and let the experts talk no matter the circumstances. His go-to default whenever he's called on to make an input has always been to simply start spewing bullshit.

    What makes him dangerous is that if he isn't called on to speak he simply isn't interested, least of all if the speaker is some egghead who uses language he can't or won't understand.

    It's pretty telling that his whole response to the situation is aptly summarized with "I take no responsibility at all".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 5:42am

    Re: Re:

    "Being rich does not buy you exclusive access to a ventilator"(
    I'm not so sure about that. Big time sports people, politicians, movie stars all get treatment immediately while not so rich die at home.

    "Trump to just let the shit hit the fan "
    The one thing he is good at.

    "From a private economy standpoint, letting the virus ravage through makes a lot of sense:"
    This may make sense in an alternate reality, but not this one.

    "the largest toll will be among the pensioners and near-pensioners, saving companies a lot of money in the long run."
    Because they do not want to meet their responsibility of paying back that money borrowed from said retired people over their entire career.

    "That's probably what Trump is hoping for"
    He hopes people will die

    Wait ... you are serious?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 5:44am

    Re: Re:

    "'I'd argue that Trump needs to shut up and let the experts talk "
    They do not believe in science

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 26 Mar 2020 @ 5:51am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Oh I'm sure they do, right up until it disagrees with their statements and/or positions at which point it instantly becomes 'fake science'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 6:18am

    Are they going to do anything about Alex Jones selling his Anti-Coronavirus Toothpaste?

    Alex Jones Is Told to Stop Selling Sham Anti-Coronavirus Toothpaste

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 6:27am

    Re: Re:

    All that will prove is that China lied about their numbers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 6:31am

    Re: Re:

    For anyone who trusts Trump enough and is dumb enough to drink aquarium cleaner, I'd chalk that up to the Darwin Effect. And no great loss.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 6:32am

    Re:

    Someone has a skewed view of what patriotism and "being American" are all about. Care to guess who it is?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 7:54am

    Re: Re: Re:

    They are keeping the names of certain companies secret for at least six months, probably the same companies who got bailed out last time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 7:58am

    Re:

    Where can I get the toothpaste, please?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 8:00am

    Re: Re:

    It makes sense if you had a mouthful of the stickiest toothpaste, the corona would get stuck and go NO FURTHER!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 8:05am

    Re: Re: Re:

    They only believe in science when it is being sprayed down upon the masses or when it is being added to the drinking water or creating the next waves of catastrophes in the form of eathquakes, hurricanes, and volcanic eruptions courtesy of HAARP.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 8:08am

    Re: Re:

    USA is poised to pass Italy on Thursday and China on Friday for most cases in the world.

    It'll pass reported cases. Given the disease originated in Wuhan, China and spread due to the Chinese government refusing to admit there was a serious problem for months; I highly doubt it will pass the actual number of cases in China.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 8:54am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You forgot your "/s"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 8:56am

    Re: Re:

    I am sure people are being allowed to come and go to and from the city especially to leave the city so they become someone else's problem because Cuomo can't get enough ventilators to the hospitals in NYC. Ventilators don't get enough oxegen to the bloodstream anyway. Its Heart/Lung machines that are needed for critical cases. Not one mention of that in US cases at all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 9:06am

    I personally feel and would like to make known that I believe Techdirt stories and related comments have got increasingly more interesting since the Coronavirus outbreak! Its keeping me pinned to the edge of my chair!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 9:14am

    Re: Re:

    Besides all that(what you said) it will get your ass FLAGGED AT TECHDIRT!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 9:15am

    Re: Re:

    Don't say Hamilton! You you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 9:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You will show me the /stooges, yes?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 9:21am

    Re:

    I'm still waiting for someone to come out and claim the Coronavirus is a HOAX..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 9:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Since you're making zero sense I have to assume that would be you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 9:21am

    Re:

    No one cares. News at 11.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 9:24am

    Re: Re:

    What IF the test swabs were actually giving people the Coronavirus? That would be fucked up. But it wouldn't surprise me!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 10:42am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Its Heart/Lung machines that are needed for critical cases.

    Those machines will keep someone alive long enough to do a heart transplant, but not for the days required to recover Covid 19. That is they are short term measure, maybe a few hours, while a ventilator, with extra oxygen is needed for days of support.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 11:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You don't watch Seinfeld. I can assume that joke was a little before your time!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 11:20am

    Re: Re:

    You're a douche.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 11:26am

    Re: Re:

    You werw probably a douche before the coronavirus outbreak.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 2:04pm

    Re: Re:

    Hasn't Trump basically done that already?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2020 @ 2:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I've watched a few episodes, definitely not before my time. But I never found Seinfeld funny, neither the show nor the man.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 26 Mar 2020 @ 5:03pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    In either case it depends on how you word it. Make your arguments in a civil, respectful or at least not raging batshit fashion and odds are good it'll be left unflagged. Don't do those things and instead throw out insults and long-debunked arguments and people are much more likely to stress-test the flagging system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48. icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 26 Mar 2020 @ 8:28pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Several times.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2020 @ 12:15pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    No, not true. Heart/Lung machines have been saving lives by getting oxygen directly into bloodstreams of hundreds of patients so that the immune system and medicine can reduce the damage from reduced oxygen being taken in by lungs alone, the immune system did not ravage lung tissue as it had with reduced oxygen levels being only supported by respirator assisted breathing according to several reports I read. However setting up the Heart/Lung machines take a great amount of critical expertise and time running them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2020 @ 12:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Well that explains a lot to me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2020 @ 12:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The most innocuous stuff gets flagged on this site. There are some motherfucking creepy weirdos here imo.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2020 @ 1:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    There should be a Master "UnFlag" Button at the top of every page because some whiney little asses flag too many comments here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 28 Mar 2020 @ 6:54pm

    That's utter nonsense, everyone knows that CORVID-19 is a side-effect from the war between the leprechaun mafia and the unicorn cartels, a weapon that got out of control and is now affecting the human population, and the people trying to spin treatments of it as some sort of conspiracy(like yourself) are in fact agents from the two sides trying to muddy the waters.

    Now, this may sound utterly ridiculous, but as it is just as reasonable as 'the swabs are actually giving people CORVID-19' I feel it deserves just as much serious consideration and contemplation, which is to say, none at all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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