Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office Seizes Domain Name Falsely Purporting to Provide COVID-19 Vaccines
OCI Badge Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Maryland
Website Falsely Purported to Sell COVID-19 Vaccines Online and Provide Same-Day Worldwide Delivery; COVIDReliefSociety.org is the10th Fraudulent Domain Seized by Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office and HSI
Baltimore, Maryland – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland has seized “COVIDReliefSociety.org” which purported to sell vaccines for the COVID-19 virus online and have them delivered the same day anywhere in the world. Instead the website was allegedly used to collect the personal information of individuals visiting the site, in order to use the information for nefarious purposes, including fraud, phishing attacks, and/or deployment of malware. Individuals visiting the site will now see a message that the site has been seized by the federal government and be redirected to another site for additional information. This is the 10th COVID fraud related domain name seized by the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The seizure of the domain name was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner and Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations – Baltimore
“This is the 10th fraudulent website taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic that we have seized in recent months,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner. “In a time when we are urging people to get vaccinated for COVID-19, it is reprehensible that fraudsters are trying to prey on unsuspecting residents and their families. Remember that the COVID vaccine is not for sale, and the federal government is providing the vaccine free of charge to people living in the United States. We urge all Maryland residents to be skeptical – don’t provide personal information or click on links in unsolicited e-mails.”
“With the help of HSI’s cybersecurity experts, our office will continue to target bogus websites, social media platforms and any other online forums responsible for advertising counterfeit vaccines, treatments and information for COVID-19,” said Special Agent in Charge for the HSI Baltimore Field Office, James Mancuso. “We will not allow criminal networks to profit from these scams.”
According to the affidavit filed in support of the seizure, the HSI Intellectual Property Rights Center (“IPRC”) and the HSI Cyber Crimes Center (“C3”) discovered an apparent fraudulent website, named “COVIDReliefSociety.org.” A domain analysis conducted by HSI indicated the domain name was created on December 26, 2020.
The HSI Cyber Operations Officer (COO) noted a blog post on the webpage stating “you can now buy Covid-19 Vaccine Online from the Covid-19 Relief Society and have it delivered same day anywhere in the world. The vaccine is for preventing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in people aged 18 years and older. Even though the Covid-19 vaccine distribution is still slow, you can order it online from us the Covid-19 Relief Society. We can offer as much as 2 Million doses in a single expedited delivery. Send inquiries today if you are looking to order Covid-19 Vaccine online.” This blog post contained a photograph of boxes that contained the text, “Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine.” The blog page contains a “Click Here to Buy” button, but it does not appear to function. The website contains an image of what appears to be a screen capture of the Moderna webpage, including the trademarked Moderna logo. The domain name was not authorized to utilize the trademarked Moderna logo, nor to offer their vaccines for sale.
By seizing the site, the government has prevented third parties from acquiring the name and using it to commit additional crimes, as well as prevented third parties from continuing to access the site in its present form.
Federal law enforcement agencies are united in our efforts to fight against COVID-19 fraud. HSI has identified tips to recognize and report COVID-19 fraud. If you believe you are a victim of a fraud or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, you may also call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or for more information visit justice.gov/coronavirus.
Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended HSI for its work in this investigation. Mr. Lenzner recognized the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Baltimore County Police Department for their assistance and thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aaron S.J. Zelinsky and Sean R. Delaney, who are handling the case.
Women’s Health and Community Pharmacies
Representing 50 percent of the population, women have unique needs that require unique products and services that DME pharmacies can provide. That said, pharmacies must also strive to provide knowledgeable, top-shelf care. What goes into accomplishing that?
By David Kopf
Apr 01, 2021
The primary business imperative for today’s DME pharmacies is ensuring that they diversify their revenues and services and reinforce their status as a healthcare hub for communities. Moreover, they can’t properly execute on those initiatives without providing the right mix of women’s health products and services.
Pharmacies must create a business that strives to provide top-shelf care and products for patients and referral partners alike. And that means laying a solid foundation in terms of market understanding, staff expertise, customer care and resources.
To help us take a closer look at what’s involved, Nikki Jensen, vice president of Essentially Women (www.essentiallywomen. com), the division of VGM & Associates that providers education, networking and group purchasing for businesses that provides women’s healthcare products, shares some insights and expertise.
IDEAL MARKET POSITION
To begin with, DME pharmacies are in a unique position to serve women’s DME/HME needs. Assuming a community pharmacy has a good reputation for providing DME and HME products and services, they already have established a solid connection with the women in their local market. Now they just have to follow through and be that primary resource for women.
“More than anything, women are seeking a trusted resource,” Jensen Says. “They want a compassionate, educated person who will listen and help them understand options. Women are also looking for one place to serve all their needs; they don’t want to go to several different locations if they can get everything they need on one stop.”
There are a variety of customer constituencies that pharmacies can better service by catering to care and product needs, such as those for mastectomy, maternity and women’s compression needs.
For starters, DME pharmacies are “uniquely positioned” to offer assistance to women before and after mastectomy surgery, according to Jensen.
“It’s possible these women are already customers using pharmacy services,” she says. “One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, which sadly, is not expected to change anytime soon.”
Bearing that in mind, a pharmacy looking to help these clients should aim be a one-stop-shop for post-mastectomy patients. Now that the patient has found a friendly, reliable, supportive resource, the last thing she wants to do is have to go somewhere else for one single item. Simply by providing the full spectrum of post-mastectomy products, you are establishing your pharmacy as a resource.
The more “central” products related to this group include post-mastectomy bras and prosthetics, but there is a wide variety of products and issues related to breast cancer patients that women’s healthcare providers should stock. Because those patients can be exposed to radiation treatment, there are various skincare product lines available to those patients. Wigs, hats, scarves and other head coverings are also important to patients undergoing chemotherapy.
“As women prepare for mastectomy surgery, there are items she should have in advance to help make her recovery more comfortable,” Jensen says. “Items such as the Contour Flip pillow are very useful since women who’ve had mastectomy surgery will have limited range of motion using her arms or using her arms to get in and out of bed or rising from a seated position for several days.
“There’s also a need for wound management,” she adds. “Women may need to resupply bandages and dressings for their surgical areas.”
Obviously, new and expecting moms need a variety of products and services ranging from pregnancy support products to breast pumps and everything in between. So, this is a cornerstone women’s health category.
Furthermore, it represents a solid retail reimbursement category with a wide variety of products. And that list gets even larger if you factor in items such as infant nutrition. A pharmacy aiming to specialize in women’s healthcare should offer these items along with a wide array of other maternity- and baby-related products.
It’s worth noting that one of the more expensive maternity items, breast pumps, is a key maternity offering, but it is one that might trend increasingly toward retail purchase due to softening reimbursement rates. (Of course, new moms have been opting to purchase breast pumps when insurance hasn’t covered them for years.)
“Over the past few years, we’ve heard some of our members tell us the reimbursement has been declining for breast pumps, so they wonder whether they want to continue offering them,” Jensen says. “For those people, I urge them to reconsider and call Essentially Women so we can help you identify where you can make adjustments to your business model for breast pumps business. There are opportunities to be successful in this area.”
Compression products, such as hosiery, socks and arm sleeves, are used for many reasons, from relieving pain to helping to prevent severe varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Compression is also used in the treatment of lymphedema and in wound care.
Moreover, compression is a key women’s health offering with women representing the lion’s share of the market.
And compression needs are often related to the previous categories, mastectomy and maternity. In fact, Jensen notes that as many as 40 percent of women who have experienced breast cancer will develop secondary lymphedema following cancer treatment.
Safe Online Pharmacies
It is essential to stay informed about safe ways to buy medication. Buying prescription medicine online or through social media may seem to cost less, but it can put you, or your loved ones, at risk. Make sure a website is reputable to safely order prescription drugs and medicine online.
NABP has identified more than 25,000 websites that fail to comply with NABP patient safety and pharmacy practice standards, or applicable laws.
Nearly 95 percent of websites offering prescription-only drugs online operate illegally.
89 percent of illegal online pharmacies reviewed by NABP did not require a prescription for the sale of prescription-only medicine.
Less than 5 percent of consumers are aware of tools to help them find safe online pharmacies, according to Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies.
Purchase Medication From Legitimate Websites
Safe, verified online pharmacies will meet the following requirements:
- Be licensed by regulators in the jurisdiction in which they are located, as well as regulators in the patient’s jurisdiction
- Accept only valid prescriptions
- Comply with applicable drug laws and professional practice laws
- Provide readily accessible contact information for patient care inquiries
- Comply with privacy laws and ensure patient confidentiality
Check the Safe Sites Search Tool Before You Buy
To protect yourself when ordering medications online, use NABP’s safe sites search tool. You can check whether a website is verified by NABP or not recommended by searching for the web address.
Another way to find a verified website is to look for .pharmacy at the end of the web address. When a website ends in .pharmacy, it has been verified by NABP. Unlike logos, the .pharmacy domain cannot be faked or forged.
For those interested in applying for a .pharmacy domain, visit our main website.
NABP’s Not Recommended List
NABP identifies a website as Not Recommended when, upon review, it appears to be out of compliance with NABP patient safety and pharmacy practice standards, or applicable law. Some Not Recommended websites do not sell drugs directly. Instead, they refer patients to websites that operate in violation of NABP patient safety and pharmacy practice standards, or applicable law.
Not Recommended websites commonly facilitate:
- the sale of prescription-only medicine without requiring a valid prescription;
- the sale of medicine that has not been approved or authorized for sale in the patient’s jurisdiction;
- the practice of pharmacy without required licensure in all relevant jurisdictions.
If you believe your website is mistakenly included on the NRL, email email@example.com to request information about NABP’s appeals process.
If a website you visited is suspicious, but is not currently listed as Not Recommended, report it.
Report a Suspicious Site
Risks of Buying From an Unverified Website
- Receiving bogus medication that fails to treat your medical condition
- Receiving pills with dangerous fillers, such as drywall and rat poison
- Buying drugs that have not been authorized for sale by your country’s medicine agency
- Falling victim to fraud and identity theft
- Exposing your computer to malware
Some illegal online pharmacies pretend to be based in Canada to give the illusion of more stringent regulations and safer drugs, but they may be based in countries without the regulatory safeguards found in the US and Canada. Read more in NABP’s Rogue Rx Activity Report.
Learn more about Charlie’s story from Song for Charlie, a family-run nonprofit charity dedicated to raising awareness about the emerging dangers of self-medication and casual drug use in the fentanyl era.
Other online drug sellers sell deadly pills laced with fentanyl. These dangerous medications are often sold through social media platforms and target adolescents and young adults. Fentanyl-laced pills have been found in every state and are linked to numerous deaths throughout the US. According to Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin. A dose of only 2 milligrams, the size of two grains of salt, is fatal for most pe