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Australians skirt vaccine rules with black market certificates

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AUSTRALIA: A ban on unvaccinated Australians entering bars and restaurants nudged thousands to get jabbed – but it has also seen the rise of a thriving black market in fake COVID-19 vaccine certificates online. Twenty-four-year-old Molly – who asked to conceal her real name – is hitting the town.

When Melbourne last month clambered out of 260-plus days of sporadic lockdowns, the allure of the city’s vibrant social scene was too much to resist, even though she is unvaccinated. “I’m not anti” vaccine, she told AFP, “but I don’t agree with it being so mandatory”. In the last few weeks, she has used a fake vaccine passport acquired through social media to dine at multiple restaurants across the city. “There was a link going around a few months ago: You put in your details, and it gives you a vaccine passport,” she explained.

The link has since been removed, but Australian authorities are playing whack-a-mole with a host of similar sites and apps that are keen to cash in. Across the country, Google searches for fake certificates soared when rules for the non-vaccinated were announced in early October, surging again when they entered into force.

One still-active website purports to sell certificates from Australia, the United States, Britain, Ireland and Pakistan for around US$500 apiece.Health experts worry that fake certificates put owners at risk, could fuel outbreaks and complicate contact tracing.

The number of fakes in circulation is difficult to estimate, but one Telegram channel touting fraudulent Australian certificates has more than 64,000 members alone. “

You can get them pretty easily on the dark web,” said Vince Hurley, a veteran detective who now teaches criminology at Macquarie University. “The price ranges from A$100 (US$74) to A$1,000 depending on the quality, on the reputation of the person selling and comments from other individuals.”


Wednesday, November 10, 2021 – 01:00

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