Italian police bust fake Covid certificate schemes using AI

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Italian police have busted a number of fake Covid certificate schemes using artificial intelligence (AI).

According to the cybercrime prosecutor’s office in Milan, thousands of people were ready to purchase false Covid-19 vaccination certificates online via the dark web.

Italian police said on Saturday they had broken up a number of online schemes offering to sell fake European Union digital Covid-19 status certificates or purported coronavirus vaccines.

The investigation, coordinated by the cybercrime prosecutor’s office in Milan, showed that more than 250,000 of people had shown an interest in the false certificates, Reuters reported.

The schemes were discovered using two artificial intelligence tools that allow the Italian police to monitor the internet and then interact as potential customers.

“A kind of outpost of ours on the internet,” said Gian Luca Berruti, head of the Milan tax police’s cyber-fraud unit.

The police said they had gained control of 10 channels on the encrypted messaging service Telegram linked to anonymous dark web accounts who wanted payment in cryptocurrency.

The fake certs ranged from 110 to 130 euros.

“About 250,000 users had registered, and a hundred tried to interact with the sellers,” said Berruti.

Last week, the EU launched its digital Covid-19 certificate designed to facilitate travel and tourism. The certificate contains a QR code, which shows if a traveller has been vaccinated or has recently had Covid or tested negative.

Berruti added that a number of suspects have already been identified.

“We want to make clear that anyone found with these fake certificates, including buyers, risks being prosecuted for offences punishable by up to six years in prison, such as fraud and using false documents,” he said.


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Written by

Deirdre Tynan

Deirdre Tynan is an award-winning journalist who enjoys bringing the best in news reporting to Spain’s largest English-language newspaper, Euro Weekly News. She has previously worked at The Mirror, Ireland on Sunday and for news agencies, media outlets and international organisations in America, Europe and Asia. A huge fan of British politics and newspapers, Deirdre is equally fascinated by the political scene in Madrid and Sevilla. She moved to Spain in 2018 and is based in Jaen.

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