Scammers are using the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in the United States to trick people into paying for doses or early access that never comes, federal authorities are warning.
As COVID-19 vaccines become more available, there has been a spike in scams seeking to exploit people’s desire to protect themselves and their loved ones from the virus, according to the U.S. Department of Justice as well as local police departments and other law enforcement agencies.
“Members of the public should be suspicious of unexpected or unsolicited contact from anyone unknown to them claiming to have information about a COVID-19 vaccine,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
Scammers will often use telemarketing calls, text messages, social media postings, and door-to-door visits to run their cons. Among the bogus offers reported to law enforcement include early access to the vaccines or entry onto a vaccine waiting list in exchange for money or information such as a Social Security number and medical history.
Here are some signs you may have encountered a vaccine scam according to authorities:
- You are asked to pay out of pocket to get the vaccine
- You are asked to pay to put your name on a vaccine waiting list or to get early access
- Advertisements for vaccines through social media platforms, email, telephone calls, online, or from unsolicited/unknown sources
- Marketers offering to sell or ship doses of the vaccine for payment
- Do not click on links from sources you do not know. These links could be attempts to download viruses onto your computer or cell phone
- Ignore online or phone offers for COVID-19 vaccinations. Actual health care providers will not ask you for money or personal information over the phone or online
- Never send money or disclose your Social Security number, date of birth, bank account, or crest card numbers to unfamiliar persons. The vaccine will likely be offered free of charge in the U.S.
- You cannot pay to put your name on a list to obtain the vaccine
People who think they may have been scammed are asked to report it to:
- Health and Human Services Office of Investigation (800) HHS-TIPS or tips.hhs.gov
- FBI, (800) CALL-FBI ic3.gov
- Medicare (800) MEDICARE
TRUSTED SOURCES OF INFORMATION
For information, you can trust about COVID-19 vaccines, visit:
- Health and Human Services Office of Investigation, oig.hhs.gov/coronavirus
- FBI, fbi.gov/coronavirus
- Department Of Justice, justice.gov/coronavirus
- Individual state departments of public health will also have trusted, local information.
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