These scammers are insidious and will use the COVID vaccine developments to steal important information from concerned people. In the article Tompor says, “Already, consumer watchdogs are hearing reports of impostors claiming to be Social Security Administration workers in order to get sensitive information from people.
“ ‘For example, the scammer calls saying that they are from the Social Security Administration and they are calling to sign the person up to receive the vaccine’, said Jon Miller Steiger, director of the East Central Region for the Federal Trade Commission.”
Of greater concern is the possibility that counterfeit vaccines which can be ineffective or downright dangerous to someone taking them. According to Tompor, “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement also anticipates a surge in attempts by crooks to sell counterfeit versions of approved vaccines.
" ‘Despite widespread illness and death caused by COVID-19, many individuals and criminal networks are continuing to exploit the pandemic for illegal financial gains, using fraudulent schemes to source, produce, export or sell fake vaccines and related products,’ according to investigators.
“As of Nov. 25, ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] said it had seized more than $26 million in illicit proceeds from COVID-19 related fraud and criminal activity. The agency made 170 arrests, executed 148 search warrants, and reviewed more than 69,000 COVID-19 domain names.
" ‘Working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, more than 1,600 shipments of mislabeled, fraudulent, unauthorized, or prohibited COVID-19 test kits and other related items have been seized,’ the agency said.’
Scams can come via phone calls, emails, text messages, and fake web sites. Scammers are going after sensitive information about people and want to install malware on your computer or smartphone. And they want your money… maybe to deliver fake products, treatments, or medicines, or maybe just to steal your money and run.
Here are some of they ways you may be scammed:
- Attempting to sign you up to receive the vaccine
- Being told that you can be placed on a waiting list if you buy gift cards or hand over cash
- Offering other products, treatments or medicine that claim to prevent the virus.
- Offering to sell you the vaccine directly, to skip the wait.
- Telling you that the sooner you get the vaccine, the sooner you can see your grandkids
- Offering to pay you to participate in a COVID-19 vaccine study
- Claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization
So, if you get a suspicious call, email, or text, what should you do?
- Never give out your address, Social Security Number, Medicare number, bank account information, or other personal information to anyone.
- Never click on a link in a suspicious email or website.
- Assume that any message you get from a government agency regarding COVID vaccines is fraudulent. If you have any question in your mind, contact that agency via their published website or phone.
- If you have questions about availability of the COVID vaccine or related matters, call your local health department or your primary care physician. They will have the latest information.
Even though the vaccine is on its way, it is going first to health care first responders and seriously vulnerable people. Even so, it will take weeks to fill the pipeline, until it is available widely. So, maintain your COVID preventive measures (wear your mask, maintain social distance, avoid large groups of people) for now. We all hope that, once the vaccine is widely available and administered, the risk of COVID exposure will be reduced and we can start resuming more normal activities.
-- Nancy Nawrocki