As COVID-19 vaccinations roll out across the country, a variety of scams are likely to appear in response to the vaccine initiative. Consumers should guard against fraudsters peddling phony treatments, phishing schemes, and other attempts to steal your money or personal information.
Be particularly vigilant about phishing messages and robocalls impersonating government agencies and organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). These are designed to trick you into sharing your passwords and personal information. Scammers also are expected to sell fake vaccines and treatments as the real vaccines are distributed.
A Georgia man reported receiving a call purporting to be from a medical group and claiming he needed a COVID-19 test before he could be vaccinated. He told Better Business Bureau (BBB) Scam Tracker he gave the caller his Medicare number and was told the caller would come to his home to administer the test. When another individual claiming to be from the same organization called to confirm the appointment, the man became suspicious and canceled the appointment.
Vaccine distribution is a major tool in the fight against COVID-19, but as with any major news item, scammers can take advantage of consumers eager to be vaccinated. Be vigilant about sharing your personal information, and remember, if a health claim seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Federal agencies are working vigilantly to ensure reliable distribution of legitimate, approved vaccines, collaborating with drug companies to stop phony vaccines and issuing warning letters to businesses that offer alleged COVID-19 cures.
Tips for avoiding COVID-19 vaccine scams:
- 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. Be aware that no COVID-19 vaccine can be purchased online or in stores at this time.
- Check with your doctor. If you want a vaccine early, reach out to your healthcare provider about your options or check out your local health department’s official website.
- Ignore calls for immediate action. While you may want to be first in line for the vaccine, don’t let that sense of urgency cloud your judgment. Scammers try to get you to act before you think. Don't fall for it.
- Think the link may be real? Double-check the URL. Scammers often buy official-looking URLs to use in their cons. Be careful that the link is really what it pretends to be. If the message alleges to come from the local government, make sure the URL ends in .gov. When in doubt, perform a separate internet search for the website.
BBB has more tips and alerts about COVID-19 scams at bbb.org/coronavirus.
For more information, visit bbb.org or call 573-803-3190.