In the last week of January 2020, days ahead of the World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus that a Public Health Emergency, Jason began stockpiling testing kits.
Acting on a tip-off from relations in China and Hong Kong, the US-based businessman pulled together a community of like-minded entrepreneurs. They purchased tens of thousands of COVID-19 IgM/IgG Quick Tests directly from a small number of factories in Germany and Korea.
At this stage, with less than 8,000 supported instances of disease across 19 countries, Jason felt that corona-virus testing kits could become a hot commodity in the months to come. And he was correct. Today, he is selling boxes of these online for over $11,000.
There’s been no increased market force in 2020 than that of Sars-CoV2. With global infections continued to spike – the worldwide tally is quickly approaching 30 million at the time of writing–the requirement for essential items like face masks, hand sanitizers and ventilators has skyrocketed.
Simultaneously, the virus has slowed mass manufacturing capabilities and brought global trade to a standstill, meaning distribution has gone through the floor. With the worldwide pandemic showing no signs of abating anytime soon, people in need turn to the dark web to provide emergency medical products.
Talking to Dark Web Magazine on Wickr, Jason (not his real name) disclosed that he had sold 8,000 COVID-19 testing kits on the dark web so far – everyone going for $180 a piece. Half of these were snapped up by medical centers in Italy and the United States; 1,000 went into a senior home in an unspecified place. One person bought out another 3,000, Jason suspects were acting on behalf of a puzzle hospital or government.
All these buyers, he said, were desperate to get their hands on the kits.
“There was real urgency in purchasing… there was real anxiety,” he said. “There was a lack [of evaluation kits] rather than so many institutions had access to the factories to purchase because most orders were pre-booked by authorities worldwide.
“Our kits were accumulated when it was not so common,” he added. “We were able to divert a few wares and stock up on a few.”
There continue to be supply shortages in several of countries around the planet. England and Scotland ran out of corona-virus home testing kits within a matter of hours at late-August, while labs have been unable to clear a backlog of tests because of the end of July. Blows to the United States’ manufacturing industry has caused multiple shortages over the last couple of months, with some medical centers only permitted to administer 25 test kits per day to a patient cohort of many million.
Last week, Zimbabwe’s Defence Minister declared that the nation is facing”some severe shortage of those test kits,” forcing them to purchase 220 more to get a state of some 14.4 million people. According to Jason, that authorities could purchase thousands of kits directly from him in one batch.
Jason is not the only illegal operator who is found a way to profiteer during the pandemic. Dark Web Magazine discovered dozens of online retailers peddling spurious corona-virus “vaccines” together with sheets of hydroxychloroquine pills and the blood of recovered COVID-19 sufferers for almost $16,000 per liter.
With governments and governments around the world fighting to cover the overwhelming public health catastrophe, distressed people–and, if what Jason says is correct, institutions – are gravitating towards underground trading places to supply highly coveted medical goods.
“The pandemic has sparked a new sort of requirement on dark web platforms which dark web entrepreneurs are delighted to meet up with supplies,” David Maimon, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Georgia State University, told Dark Web Magazine over email. “Governments’ responses to the pandemic also have opened a range of opportunities for dark web sellers and their supply chain to benefit from.”
Associate Professor Maimon clarified that dark web sellers have adapted to the pandemic in two big ways. First, they have diversified their portfolio and additional new kinds of products to their inventory that they would never have sold earlier. Scroll through just about any dark web markets. This becomes evident: pharmaceutical grade protective gear like face masks and hand sanitizer lotions now sit side-by-side using Glock 19-millimeter handguns and uncut crystals of MDMA.
Second, vendors have to request customers to become patient with dispatch times.
Maimon points out that online fraudsters also have discovered new ways to defraud both the authorities and law-abiding citizens,and urges serious warning for anyone considering entering into a transaction with a darknet trader like Jason.
“Many of the vendors take advantage of this panic,” he said. “There are some people who promise to sell all sorts of remedies that are probably fake, [while] others promote protective equipment like masks and hand sanitizers [amid] a worldwide shortage… [and] we have strong reason to think it is of low quality. We know of some groups who market used facemasks.”
Any sort of protective equipment that has not been approved for use by the relevant authorities isn’t safe for use, states Maimon, who strongly advises against relying on any health-related commodity that’s been obtained on the dark web.
“There are a whole lot of fake drugs and products out there too,” he adds, “so consumers will need to be cautious concerning the manufacturers and the sellers they purchase from.”
Suppose Jason could be taken at his word. In that case, however, he is in the company of hoarding and selling coronavirus test kits for reasons which are more altruistic than financial – indicating that he is the one who does not have time for anyone not carrying the COVID crisis seriously.
“We secured those kits to save lives,” he said. “But we’ve had some contacts which only play around with questions and aren’t really interested in purchasing and saving lives.”