As COVID vaccine rolls out, scammers cash in
MILWAUKEE, Wis. (WSAW) - COVID-19 vaccine distribution is in full swing, and scammers have been quick to take advantage. BBB Scam Tracker is getting reports of cons ranging from calls phishing for personal information, to phony messages claiming you need to pay to guarantee your dose. If you are eligible to receive the vaccine, be sure to double-check any messages before sharing personal information.
How the Scam Works:
You get a phone call, social media message, or an email saying that you are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. It appears to comes from a friend, a public health official or someone from a local hospital or clinic. That’s great news! You start to schedule your appointment, but you quickly find there’s a catch. The person who contacted you needs personal information or requires you to pay upfront.
For example, in one version reported to BBB Scam Tracker, a phony caller claims that they need your Medicare number and home address. “I gave [the scammer] my Medicare number and confirmed my name and address,” one victim reported. “He said he was going to come out to my house to administer the [COVID-19] test, and then the vaccine but he never showed.” In another version, scammers are impersonating people on social media, contacting their “friends,” and claiming that – if paid – they can “guarantee… the vaccine ASAP.” In yet another version, scammers are offering vaccine shots for as low as $150, on apps and through email.
No matter what scammers insist, be sure to check it against information from your local government or official news sources. Even if you don’t pay up, sharing personal information with scammers opens you up to the risk of identity theft.
How to Spot a Coronavirus Vaccine Con:
- Know your region’s plan for rolling out the vaccine. In the United States, each state has its own process for dispensing the vaccine. Check with your local government or health department. Understanding the process in your area and how you can expect to be contacted will help you spot a scam.
- Research carefully: Scammers are very creative, so be skeptical of anything that seems too good – or crazy – to be true. Double-check any information about the vaccine with official news sources, and be aware that none of the vaccines can be currently purchased online or in stores.
- Check with your doctor: If you want a vaccine early, reach out to your healthcare provider about your options. If you don’t have a primary care physician, check out the official website of your local health department for more information.
- Guard your government-issued numbers. Never offer your Medicare ID number, Social Security number, health plan information or banking information to anyone you don’t know or trust.
- Think the link may be real? Double-check the URL. Scammers often buy official-looking URL domains to use in their cons. Be careful to ensure that the link destination is really what it claims to be. If the message claims to be from the local government, make sure the URL ends in .gov (for the United States) or .ca (for Canada). When in doubt, perform a separate internet search for the website or call the source directly.
For More Information
BBB has identified many ways in which scammers are cashing in on the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about clinical trial scams, contract tracing cons, counterfeit face masks, and government agency imposters.
If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams. Find more information about scams and how to avoid them at BBB.org/AvoidScams.
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