The domain used to show a full-page advertisement for the “No.1 Canadian Pharmacy,” which claimed to sell the drug Hydroxychloroquine (under brand name Plaquenil).

That sounds great, can I get some Hydroxychloroquine?

No, sorry. This website advertised a fake online pharmacy - not a real one.

Fake online pharmacies are a common scam, and the scammers followed a common runbook when creating this site: they used bots to post many links to this site on websites around the world, amassing over 87,000 backlinks. This is intended to enrich the SEO ranking of the site - that is to say, “more backlinks” generally means a website is “more popular,” so search engines will rank it higher when someone searches for “where to buy hydroxychloroquine online.”

Based on historical WHOIS and DNS records, the original site was active likely between March 27th, 2020 and sometime in May 2020. You may remember it as the first long period of COVID-related lockdowns in the United States. This was no coincidence - the scammers adapted their scam from selling fake erectile dysfunction medication (such as Sildenafil, under the brand name Viagra) to sell a “miracle” COVID cure: Hydroxychloroquine. The site’s description at the time even stated verbatim:

“A study reported that hydroxychloroquine treatment of COVID-19 patients had clinical and virologic benefits. USA president say a drug used to treat malaria might cure COVID-19.”

The history of Hydroxychloroquine and COVID is long and winding - too long to cover here - but studies have since shown that Hydroxychloroquine does not have a measurable impact in preventing or treating COVID. For more information, please visit the World Health Organization’s page on COVID-19 and Hydroxychloroquine.

Who are the scammers that originally made

A copy of the original site was preserved by the Internet Archive, for those curious. It’s only a landing page (essentially, a “burner” website which exists only to get a bunch of clicks, then be deleted after search engines realize the ruse), but it would have taken you to the scammer’s real site if you clicked anywhere.

It’s hard to tell who the scammers are exactly off so little evidence, but based on the identical phone number present on both sites, the scammers behind may be the same as those behind (archived copy here). Unfortunately, Canada Pharmacy Online still exists as of when I wrote this page.

Who are you? What are you doing with this domain now?

Hi, I’m Chris, a cybersecurity goon on the internet! I sniped this domain after it expired to ensure that no scammer can reuse it to sell Hydroxychloroquine or peddle COVID misinformation. Any backlinks going to this domain now show this site, which explains what the scam is, so hopefully fewer people can be swindled in the future.

For anyone who arrives at this website: take medication only after its effects have been studied and those studies have been replicated. Where you get that medication is no business of mine, but you should avoid online pharmacies (unless someone you know in real life can vouch for them), as they are very often scams.

Stay safe. <3