Federal and state officials are mobilizing to prevent scams offering the coronavirus vaccine.
Fraudsters have a large bag of scams ranging from Craigslist ads, scam phone calls promising home delivery, text messages with false appointment details, and offers of “leftover” vaccines ready for the taking.
Cybersecurity firm Recorded Future reported that website domains containing the word “vaccine” grew to roughly 2,500 from October to November when the first round of vaccines received federal approval.
Officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are certain that scams will continue throughout the vaccine distribution.
“If you’re receiving unsolicited offers for a vaccine – not one, not two but 10 red flags should go up,” said Nanette Day, assistant special agent for DHS Inspector General’s office. “There is no way that you under any circumstance should deal with anybody except a known and reputable medical provider or pharmacy.”
The federal agency released a fraud alert warning consumers to remain vigilant in the face of fraudulent information related to the vaccine and its distribution.
Meanwhile, state officials across the country continue to inform consumers about the dangers posed by these scams.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller painted a clear picture of the scammers to Iowa residents, saying, “Scammers follow the headlines, and they’ll take advantage of our excitement, confusion, and other emotions.”
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody issued a statement to Florida residents warning them of scams involving the site Eventbrite where fraudsters pose as county health departments and collect payments in exchange for phony COVID-19 appointments. Fortunately, Eventbrite removed all of the fraudulent events from its site by Jan. 13, according to the Attorney’s General office.
Older consumers are among the most likely to fall prey to scams, according to Colorado Attorney General Phil Weisser.
“Whether it’s your parents or grandparents – anyone you know who is vulnerable – please encourage them to be on their guard,” said Weisser.
Connecticut officials released a statement earlier this month urging consumers to verify that vaccine information comes from legitimate sources, never give banking or Social Security information over the phone, and remember that only few vaccines have received federal approval.
In late December, early cases of distributing phony coronavirus vaccine scams emerged in three countries in Asia. Participants falsely assumed they received the coronavirus vaccine when they received shots that either were filled with water, antibiotics, or an unknown protein.
Those who believe they received a fraudulent call relating to the coronavirus vaccine should contact the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477).