By Megan Hickey

CHICAGO (CBS) — Last month, CBS 2 exposed the world of con-artists, marketing COVID-19 vaccines on the dark web, capitalizing on fear and scarcity of the vaccine across the globe.

Cyber security experts warned it would only get worse.

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CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey has been looking into just how far the scammers have gone.

By marketing what they claim to be life-saving COVID vaccines, they are “available now and going fast.”

Last month, cyber security expert Mark Ostrowski, head of engineering at Check Point, warned that the majority of these ads appears to be completely bogus, but now there’s the possibility that real vaccines are being sold.

“Definitely seems more plausible,” Ostrowski said. “Just because that number is growing so large. We talked about 100 million, if tens of thousands get misplaced or misdirected it seems more plausible compared to the numbers are a lot smaller.”

Ads are up about 33% since we last spoke.

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The majority of sellers originating in the US, UK & Germany, according to their research. Ostrowski said that like clockwork, as soon as the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine was approved, J&J ads started popping up on the dark web.

“If you’re being asked for Bitcoin for your vaccine, you’re probably going down the wrong path,” Ostrowski said.

Ostrowski added that it’s not just the dark web ads that worry him. They’re also tracking phishing scams related to the vaccine. Ostrowski’s team found a hacker who designed a website impersonating the Centers for Disease Control in an attempt to heist Microsoft credentials.

Interested vaccine hunters plug in their usernames and password thinking it will take them to information about how to get the vaccine. But instead, their login in gets stolen.

Ostrowski said don’t click the links in unsolicited emails. Head straight to the official website to avoid scams like these.

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“They could be receiving something that’s fraudulent or misleading and that you really want to have a good source of proper information,” Ostrowski said. “Because we’re talking about a serious thing we’re talking about health and the welfare of all of us.”

Megan Hickey