State cybersecurity officials have warned against a new crop of phishing or scam emails, with COVID-19 vaccines as the subject meant to lure victims into clicking.

Such COVID-19 vaccine-themed scam emails may include subject lines that make reference to vaccine registration, information about vaccine coverage, locations to get or ways to reserve a vaccine or vaccine requirements, as outlined on the website of the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell within the state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.

It's the latest spin on COVID-19 themed emails sent to users since spring in efforts to get them to share personal or financial information or to follow links that activate malware.

Officials also warn that the links and attachments in such emails could involve "brand spoofing" to make it look as though the message was sent by government agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, healthcare providers or pharmaceutical companies.

Two types of phony COVID vaccine activities: fake sales and email phishing (NJ Office of Homeland Security)

New Jersey state employees were targeted by one such phony email campaign, which appeared to be sent by the CDC and requested that the person receiving the message click on a link in order to view a secure message to complete a count for COVID-19 vaccines.

The link was actually an effort to collect users' names, addresses, driver’s license numbers and more information.

Cybersecurity officials also have cautioned against online ads for buying actual fake vaccines on dark web marketplaces, which "will be ineffective at best and toxic at worst."

Operation Stolen Promise, launched under U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) provides information regarding phony and criminal activity related to COVID-19, including the sale and distribution of counterfeit or unauthorized vaccines and treatment.

Among advice from federal officials is the following:

  • Ignore unsolicited offers for vaccinations and miracle treatments or cures.
  • Don’t respond to texts, emails or robocalls about vaccines and treatments.
  • Be wary of ads for vaccines and treatments on social media.
  • Report any suspicious activity involving COVID-19 vaccines or treatments to COVID19FRAUD@dhs.gov

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