Frontline healthcare workers in the United States are starting to receive Pfizer's clinically approved COVID-19 vaccine. Now that a vaccine is available, state and federal agencies are warning of scammers trying to take advantage of those looking to get the vaccine.
Government officials have already been cracking down on phony COVID-19 testing kits and treatments. Now, they are ramping up efforts to prevent the sale of fake vaccines.
The Department of Homeland Security says they have more than 7,000 agents working with the FBI and FDA to try and stop scammers in their tracks. So far, Homeland Security has identified around 71,000 websites suspected of COVID-19 fraud.
Since the general public will not be able to receive the vaccine until mid-2021, criminals may try to promise people immediate availability. The Federal Trade Commission says scammers may try to call, text, or email you, and some may even show up at your front door.
Selling fake vaccines and other treatments is only one of many ways scammers will try to cash in on the vaccine release. The Better Business Bureau says to watch out for phishing messages attempting to trick you into sharing your passwords and personal information. Con artists have already impersonated the CDC and WHO in phishing emails that claim to have news about the disease. The BBB has also seen an increase in scams using robocalls to impersonate government officials.
John Caras with Telebiometrics, a company that specializes in biosecurity, spoke with KEYE-TV in Austin, Texas about the issue. He said to never give your personal information to someone you don't trust who's offering you a vaccine. "Anybody that's offering a vaccine, you need to demand proof."
Scammers could also claim to be with Social Security or Medicare and offer to put you on a list to get the vaccine. Some may even try to sell you the vaccine. Just remember, no legitimate entity will ask for your social security number, bank account, or credit card number.
· 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
· 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 (for the United States) or .ca (for Canada). When in doubt, perform a separate internet search for the website.